Several James Madison students and student-athletes volunteered at Plains Elementary School in Timberville, Va. on Saturday, September 21, 2012 as the school held its annual 'Fall Fiesta'. This is a yearly fundraising event put on by students, staff, and faculty to help raise money for the school and it is their biggest fundraising event of the year. The event has taken place every year for the past 30 years.
To prepare for the event, each class in the school put together a themed basket and was assigned a game for the fundraiser. The students and parents then donated items that related to that theme for their basket, and the basket was raffled off at the event. Some local companies and independent consultants also donated baskets as well.
During the week prior to the Fall Fiesta, students were allowed to purchase tickets that were used to play games, buy food, and participate in raffles and drawings. On the day of the event, different games were set up around the school on the inside and out. A moon bounce and bean bag toss as well as other "tossing games" highlighted some of the activities that the students had the opportunity to participate in.
This year, in addition to the many JMU students who were in attendance, the lacrosse team was also able to volunteer for the event. Kindergarten teacher Erica Gunden, who is one of the coordinators for the Fall Fiesta, said, "This is the first year that I have specifically sought out JMU athletes...the students see the athletes as role models, and we thought it would be a good idea to bring the two together."
Everyone who was in attendance seemed very receptive and appreciative of the amount of representation that JMU had at the Fall Fiesta, especially the student-athletes. Gunden said, "Students, teachers & parents alike really noticed the girls. They had a very welcoming presence. I look forward to bringing more athletes into the school to help promote continued learning, encourage the students, and just make learning fun."
On her experience volunteering at the Fall Fiesta, sophomore defender Lexi Cross said, "It was a great opportunity to give back to the community and see kids excited about raising money for their school. It was truly a great group of kids!"
The success of this event can be attributed to the amount of involvement and dedication that was displayed by the Plains Elementary students and staff, as well as the surrounding community. The town of Timberville is home to just over 2,500 people, and it is considered to be a close-knit area. Erica Gunden called this event a "truly collective effort" and "a wonderful community-building event."
Freshman defender Carter Reifsnider shared her thoughts on the event by saying, "Some of favorite childhood memories come from things like the 'Fall Fiesta', so it was nice being able to be a part of this event for the kids."