My wife still can’t believe I bought a fire engine but tonight she saw firsthand just how helpful it can be with fundraising.
We bought “Perry the Fire Engine” with the intention of using it for community events and to help benefit area charities. When you park this thing near children, it acts like a magnet. I’m not sure if it’s the bright red body, the flashers, the shiny chrome, the metal diamondplate, or a combination of everything, but kids all but hug Perry when they get close to him.
Most adults flock to the fire engine as well but they’re far more subtle in their approach. You can tell their inner child wants to climb all over the fire truck and polish the flashers while howling out siren noises, but they just meander by staring at it from the corners of their eyes.
Kids, however, have no qualms with displaying their excitement, and I honestly can’t get enough of it. Everything I do with this truck revolves around kids. I even bought a firefighter puppet for a reason still yet to be determined, but it’s almost as cool as the fire engine itself. Still, I refrained from putting on a full-fledged puppet show from Engine 1′s cab for fear of encroaching on my wife’s event.
I also purchased four dozen red fire helmets to hand out to the children as they passed by Perry. I invited them to play with the pump levers and knobs, climb around on the fire engine, and activate the flashers. They could wear the real firefighter helmet, don the heavy fire-resistant turncoat, and pretend they were working the deck gun. I think I loved it just as much as they did.
The point of the event was to try and raise money for the Cady Stanton Elementary PTO, of which my wife is the President. She’s on a mission to reduce the burden on parents when it comes to fundraising by eliminating things like chocolate, popcorn, overpriced trinkets, and magazines, and replacing them with fitness-oriented and family-oriented events.
She feels that parental involvement is far more important than just writing a check for things they don’t need, but it’s been a bit of a struggle introducing this change. Although I must say that neighbors and relatives have to appreciate being asked to pledge $2, $3, or $5 rather than buy a $20 tub of chocolate.
Tonight’s Walk-a-Thon saw about half the number of people she had hoped for, yet she raised $500 more than she anticipated. So the support is out there. She just needs to keep delivering her message. Even though she’s less than two months into her plan, I think she’s doing an amazing job.
HUGE thanks go out to ALL of the volunteers. The number of parents and faculty members who stepped up for this event was inspiring, and Heather and Melissa (her right-hand everything) had so much stress and workload lifted as a result. She also wants to thank the school district and administration for allowing her to use the Varsity football field and track under the lights. The kids loved it.
The evening kicked off with some musical entertainment from the elementary school’s drum ensemble. The high school cheerleaders had also planned on performing at the Walk-a-thon but had to pull out because of the soggy field. Personally, I think sinking in the mud would provide a better base for the human triangle, but then you’re looking at a lot of ruined shoes.
When the walk actually started, I fired up the truck and embarked on the ceremonial first lap with lights flashing. Dance music pumped away over the loudspeakers to keep everyone motivated and the Walk-a-thon was officially on.
Every time a child completed a lap, they got a colored jelly band. Every 4th lap they were rewarded with a glow-in-the-dark band. The peer pressure to amass glowing wristlets was quite powerful and it kept all the kids walking. The goal was to have each child walk 4 miles (16 laps around the track). If successful, they’d end up with 15 different colored bands and a free water bottle after their final lap.
In the end, the kids who attended had a blast and looked quite worn out when leaving…all aglow with their achievements. Just under $2,000 was raised and it was based entirely around fitness and family activity. Not chocolate, not caramel corn, not magazines. Just…family time.
Even with how awesome the night went, I suppose the true excitement of the evening came at the very end when someone called the cops on me. Around 8pm when the event ended, I offered to give the remaining children a ride around the track in the fire engine. You should have seen the excitement in their eyes when they climbed into the cab or strapped into the rear-facing SCBA seats. A few even manned the deck gun throughout the lap.
As we tootled around the track at the breakneck speed of idle, I allowed the kids to activate the sirens. Just long enough for them to know they were responsible for the crooning fire engine. The smiles were predictably ear to ear. After each lap, more kids wanted to climb aboard, and Perry ended up earning four wristbands of his very own before parents peeled their kids off the fire engine to return home.
Soon after, a policeman rolled up and approached Heather. Turns out, someone actually called the cops to complain that my sirens were too loud. They wanted the malfeasance stopped.
I could totally understand the complaint if I was running amok through the village blasting my horns and sirens at two o’clock in the morning, but this was 8pm on a Friday night. On the high school Varsity football track. I wasn’t even blasting the sirens for the entire lap, just a quick little blurp to give the kids a thrill. A whoop whoop that lasted MAYBE 3 seconds at a time. In all, the sirens were on for MAYBE a grand total of 20 seconds over the four laps.
This wasn’t some wild kegger (unfortunately), just a fundraiser for elementary kids. People need to chill. There are worse travesties in the world than having to deal with 15 minutes of occasional siren-induced enjoyment on a Friday evening.
Anyhow, the officer took down Heather’s information because she was the head of the event and said it would just be recorded to show that he answered the complaint. He didn’t want to be there, he knew we were holding a fundraiser, and he saw no problem with what I did. Still, it’s his responsibility to show up when killjoys phone in a major offense such as Fun in the First Degree.
I offered to turn in every child’s name who had activated the siren in exchange for leniency but he said that wasn’t necessary. I asked what kind of witness protection program he could offer and mentioned that I’d be easy to flip. “I’m like a canary, sir. I have no loyalty when it comes to the violation of noise ordinances.”
Heather told the policeman that she’d like to know who made the complaint so that she could apologize, and I was all, “Uh, yeahhh, officer…to…’apologize’…” wink-wink. Heather did genuinely want to apologize but he had no idea who called in the report. After scribbling down some obligatory details, he offered to make a quick exit without dragging anyone away in cuffs.
Still, Perry is now in the books as an offender even though no tickets were issued. Next time (and there WILL be a next time), I’ll keep the sirens pre-7pm. If no cops show up then perhaps we’ll have reached a truce with whoever dropped the dime on me.