Aspen school fundraiser a simple way to give back | AspenTimes.com

Aspen school fundraiser a simple way to give back

The Simple Gifts Project giving catalog includes 10 different ways to give a gift that gives back, ranging from "serve healthy meals to school-age kids all summer" to "block malaria with a moquito net." Plus, half of all contributions are then given back to Aspen Middle School, making The Simple Gifts Project the school's most successful fundraiser.

ASPEN – In search of a gift for the person who has everything? Aspen resident Shereen Sarick offers this simple answer: The Simple Gifts Project.

“This is a great way to give people – teachers, co-workers, friends – something that really matters,” said Sarick, who helped launch the program at Aspen Middle School. “And, at the same time, it helps our local kids.”

The concept is, well, simple: Rather than giving trinkets this holiday season, give a gift that gives back through The Simple Gifts Project, where 50 percent of all donations go to a specific cause and the other 50 percent go back to Aspen Middle School.

The project’s giving catalog offers 10 different ways to contribute, ranging from “boost a child’s health with multivitamins” to “give the gift of water” to “comfort an abused or neglected child.”

Here’s how it works: Purchasers choose the cause they’d like to support and choose their level of support. For example, to “fill a child’s weekend with nutritious food choices” you can fill a backpack for one hungry child for $6, two hungry children for $12 and so on.

“Nearly one in five American children will go without food some time this year. You can help combat food insecurity in your community by providing a food bank with a selection of items to distribute to children in need through programs like this one,” the catalog description says.

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But The Simple Gifts Project is more than just a global philanthropic endeavor. It is actually a local fundraiser, too.

According to the organization’s website, which lists eight schools across the country as project participants, it’s “fundraising you can feel good about.”

Sarick agrees.

“Enough with the wrapping paper and poinsettias and cookie-dough fundraisers,” she said. “We knew there had to be a way to have our kids raise money for their schools – and this is it.

“Not only are they raising money, but they are learning about giving back. And nobody has to buy stuff they don’t want.”

In 2010, AMS students raised some $3,000 for their school through The Simple Gifts Project. In doing so, they also helped more than 1,000 children around the world by encouraging friends and family to donate items such as clean water and mosquito netting, medicine to treat children suffering from malaria and trachoma, and prenatal vitamins and multivitamins for nutritionally at-risk moms and kids. Donations were also collected to support the Childhelp River Bridge Center, which helps abused and neglected children here in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“This teaches kids about giving back and provides parents and teachers with an opportunity to start conversations about ecology, economics, geography and other important ideas,” Sarick said.

It’s a message that Sarick and others involved with The Simple Gifts Project hope will resonate this holiday season and beyond.

“When your kids share our Giving Catalog, they aren’t just raising money for their school, Scouting troop or soccer team,” Sarick said. “They are helping children in need and learning how small gifts – one meal, one book or one dose of medicine – can change a child’s life.”

For more information or to make a donation, visit http://www.simplegiftsproject.org.

jmcgovern@aspentimes.com