They've been in school for only a couple of weeks, but members of Marietta High School's Wall of Sound marching band have already been at work raising money for the new academic year.
At a recent after-school practice, the percussion section was sporting new drums purchased for about $4,000 with money raised through donation boxes, a bake sale, 50/50 drawings and a Fourth of July car wash.
"The car wash was definitely the most effective," said senior Michael Reese. "We just lined it up with a holiday" when people would be off work and out and about.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Marietta High School Wall of Sound director Ernie Cornell, center, watches as band members march in the parking lot of the school during practice recently.
Fundraising is a fact of life for students around the country, whether they're participating in extracurricular activities like band or athletics, collecting cash for class trips or selling items like gift wrap and cookie dough to help the school's parent-teacher organization pay for activities like field trips and playground equipment. According to PTO Today, an organization that supports various parent-teacher groups around the country, school groups raise more than $1.5 billion each year selling products.
That money supports activities for students that schools might be hard-pressed to fund on their own.
"It's the lifeblood of the program," said Marietta High School director of bands Ernie Cornell, noting the money goes to things like band camp, instrument repairs, uniforms and more. "We couldn't do two-thirds of what we do if it wasn't for the outstanding parents we have."
By the numbers
$1.5 billion-plus - Estimated amount school groups raise every year by selling various products.
80 percent - Approximate amount of fundraising dollars generated by traditional product sales.
More than 2,000 - Fundraising companies operating in the United States and Canada.
Families with students in multiple activities sometimes have to pick and choose among the various fundraisers in which their children are asked to participate.
"When she brings something home from the PTO ... we usually don't participate in that because our neighbors, it's getting to the point where they see us coming, they know it's for fundraising," said Watertown resident Kay Stephan, 47, who has three children in the Wolf Creek Local school district, two of them in band and one of those a cheerleader as well. "There's just so much. We try to keep it at a healthy medium."
Stephan said she focuses more on the activity-related fundraisers because "that is what we as a family are involved in."
But she still tries to help the PTO by collecting Box Tops for Education and Campbell's soup labels, both of which can be redeemed for money by schools.
The Waterford High School FFA chapter has a loyal supporter who collects WIX filter box tops for the organization, bringing in as much as $1,000 in a year, said ag teacher Matt Hartline.
The FFA also conducts a number of fundraisers, including citrus and strawberry sales that net $3,000 to $5,000 depending on the number of students participating and a pair of tractor pulls in conjunction with the Washington County Antique Tractor and Equipment Club that generate $1,000 to $1,500 each.
The money goes toward offsetting travel costs to the national convention, for which students are usually asked to pick up half of the approximately $300 individual tab. But for a national parliamentary procedure competition in Massachusetts last fall, the FFA paid all expenses. Hartline didn't have exact figures immediately available but estimated the cost at between $3,000 and $4,000.
"My objective is if they work that hard ... we want to pay for it in full," he said. "If it wasn't for the community supporting us in these projects, it wouldn't be possible."
Groups that hold fundraisers in the Frontier Local school district include Student Council, the Drama Club and individual grade levels, like the eighth-graders working to pay for their annual trip to Washington, D.C., or the juniors responsible for putting on prom. Treasurer Frank Antill said the total revenue budget for all student activities accounts - including ticket sales at athletic events and FFA fruit sales - was more than $150,000 in the 2011-12 school year.
Tara Hays, the eighth-grade class adviser at Frontier High and Middle School, said eighth-graders will have a fundraiser virtually every month to pay for that D.C. trip, which has cost $8,000 to $10,000 in years past. What is done "kind of depends on what the parents of the group are willing to do," she said.
Frontier freshman Mindi Bunner didn't get to go on her eighth-grade trip due to illness, but she was raising money to do so, selling Rada Cutlery and helping with a haunted house in the old Newport Elementary gym.
Bunner said she prefers events like the haunted house to selling items since a lot of people don't want to spend extra in a bad economy.
"We all had to set it up and everything, and it was a lot of fun," she said of the haunted house. "At one time, I was like a head on the table. And another time I was a butcher."
Hays is also vice president of the Frontier Athletic Boosters, whose main fundraising comes from running concession stands at middle and high school sporting events. She said the group is looking at other potential activities with the board of education considering a pay-to-participate fee to help offset transportation costs.
"We're trying to help stay out of that," she said.
Marietta City Schools Treasurer Matt Reed said student fundraisers for the middle school and high school - not including band and athletic boosters - brought in about $75,000 in the last school year, which takes some pressure off the general fund.
Individual schools have principals' accounts to pay for various activities. Fundraisers for those are expected to raise about $18,000 in the upcoming school year, Reed said.
Through fundraisers like their booth at the Waterford Community Fair, merchandise sales and a spring carnival, the Waterford Elementary PTO raises money for activities like an academic ice cream party, a visit from an author and outdoor education at 4-H Camp Hervida. Last year, they raised about $18,000, said PTO treasurer Beth Huck, with nearly $10,000 of that going to purchase new equipment and landscaping for the school's playground.
Waterford Elementary Principal Doug Baldwin said the PTO's efforts help things happen that students otherwise might not experience.
"It does provide our students some opportunities," he said.