Crane’s Respond-A-Thon Benefit

By Elizabeth Karlsberg   |   April 19, 2018
Crane runners were greeted by a cloud of confetti as they began their Respond-A-Thon laps (photo credit Teresa Pietsch)

March 23 was the last day of school before students at Crane Country Day School were set to head off for spring break, yet they had one important assignment they wanted to complete. It didn’t involve homework. It didn’t require writing a paper or even reading a book, but it did mean they had to lace up their running shoes.

That assignment, albeit an optional one, was Crane’s first ever Respond-A-Thon and Spirit Day. Whether they sprinted, jogged, or walked, every student who took part in the event had the same idea: to raise money for some of the key organizations that supported Santa Barbara County residents in the wake of the Thomas Fire and Montecito debris flow disasters. The all-school fundraiser was the brainchild of Crane staffulty member Hayward Kwit, who described it as “a spirit rally, jog-a-thon, and philanthropic event all rolled into one fantastic day.”

Many of the runners donned their favorite green-and-white Crane garb. Seventh grader Audrey Gifford showed her true spirit, painting her face in the school colors, decorating her hair with multiple green ribbons, and wearing a beloved, green Crane sports jersey. “We were asked to run as many laps as we could in 30 minutes,” shares Gifford, her cheeks still rosy from her efforts. “We ran around the parking lot, basketball courts, and blacktop,” she adds. “I hope the money we raise will help the organizations either get new equipment or be able to buy more food, supplies, or medicine. They helped people when everyone was evacuated, so this will help them cover the costs of that and be able to help more people in the future if they need it.”

According to Kwit, who teaches the school’s Service Learning classes and advises its extracurricular Service Learning Club, when she presented the Respond-A-Thon idea to the club’s members, they immediately jumped at the idea. The Service Learning Club primarily comprises Crane eighth graders. “They’d been looking for a way to do something after the tragic events of January 9,” Kwit said, “But they also wanted it to be an activity where every Crane student could participate.” And participate they did. A few threatening storm clouds couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the runners, who were showered with confetti blasts as they began the designated course.

Despite a mandatory evacuation order that had closed the school’s campus for the prior three days, and despite the impending spring break, Crane staff reported that a great majority of its students showed up for the Respond-A-Thon. The funds raised will benefit the Santa Barbara County Animal Services, the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade, Direct Relief International, Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue, and the Unity Shoppe. 

According to school officials, all of Crane’s students, from kindergarteners to eighth graders, learn the importance of service. In fact, each class has some element of service embedded in their curriculum. The youngest students, for instance, made cards for Meals on Wheels recipients this year. Other grades made Valentine’s Day heart garlands for The Friendship Center. With each successive grade, students receive more hands-on opportunities to participate in serving their community.

Kwit explains that during the final two years at Crane – that is, in seventh and eighth grades – service-learning classes are part of the curriculum. In those classes, students explore volunteerism and learn about philanthropy in greater depth. These older students study the specifics of how a service organization operates: whom or what it seeks to help, the group’s personnel and volunteer structure, and its funding goals. In addition to learning about the service providers in their own backyard, they explore national and international groups as well. The students then vote on which of these groups they’d like to support, and finally plan volunteer activities and fundraising projects to meet the goals they’ve set for themselves.

If you’d like additional information about Crane Country Day School, please call 969-7732 of visit


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