by: Amy Philips Haller

In March, Kristen Rugg proudly presented a check for over $300.00 to Bower Hill Volunteer Fire Department. Rugg raised this money as part of her Senior Exhibition Project: FLEX. The FLEX program is part of the Char Valley curriculum where every senior is required to create a 'Future Life Experience,' and implement it. When 18 year old Kristen Rugg was faced with the choice of what to focus her senior project on, she looked to her younger sister for inspiration. "I wanted to be more involved in my community, especially because my sister volunteered at Bower Hill as a Junior Firefighter. I know how much effort firemen and women put forth in the community and I wanted to reward them. .. So for my project I chose a fundraiser for the station."

Beginning in October and running through the end of February, students have 5 months to complete the assignment. Rugg did not procrastinate, and started the ball rolling right away. By mid November, she had already decided her project and benefactor. She also knew she wanted to hold the event at Ice Castle Skating Arena. "I thought to myself it was the ideal place to hold the fundraiser. They have two rinks, so no matter what; there would be public skating in at least one; even if there was hockey in the other. I knew my odds at raising money were better there." Rugg admitted she began to sweat out the month of December when she and Paula (the woman in charge of booking these sorts of events) were caught up in a vicious game of phone tag. "I lost sleep over it, wondering, 'What am I going to do if we can't ever hook up and I can't book this?'"

Finally, on a Friday night when Rugg was enjoying an evening of ice skating herself, she boldly walked up to the office in hopes of contacting Paula. "I couldn't believe it, she was there and we were finally able to speak with each other! I explained to her who I was, and what I wanted to accomplish. Without hesitation, Paula agreed."

Together, they were able to coordinate the date for the fundraiser. Then came the hard part, Rugg had to negotiate the amount of proceeds that would benefit the Fire Department. "It was intimidating to me, but I was determined. I told Paula I wanted 10 to 15% of the proceeds; but I would prefer 15%. I was nervous the whole time, but I tried to stand my ground. Paula pulled out a calculator and agreed to 15% of the admission and skate rental fees !"

Although satisfied with her negotiating skills, Rugg eventually evaluated her numbers and realized she wasn't happy with the potential bottom line. "I thought to myself if we have 100 people come, I would make about 100 dollars. I wanted to make more." Rugg persevered and decided to add a Chinese auction to the mix. She found thirteen local businesses that were willing to donate items towards the auction.

With everything in place, she was down to the most important detail: persuading people to come. She had no start up budget, so Rugg was forced to be creative. "I made posters and hung them allover the school and fire station. I told my friends, who passed it on to theirs. I also made sure friends in other schools got the word out. We sent out a mass email, and encouraged people to forward it to others. We posted the information on the Bower Hill website, as well as the sign in front of the station. Also, I called the Almanac and they listed the event in community news."

Rugg had labored for months and finally the big night had arrived. "In retrospect, I was glad I had decided to do the Chinese auction because it nearly doubled the amount of money I raised for the fire department. I was a bit disappointed in the turnout, as I expected more classmates to come; but I think that was because the Snowball dance was rescheduled the evening of my fundraiser. (The dance had been cancelled a week earlier due to inclement weather.)

"I found the entire experience to be rewarding; especially because it hit so close to home. The firefighters are so friendly, and so giving. They are out there to save lives and they have a better understanding of the value of life then most do. It was so satisfying to me to know that I contributed to such a great cause."

According to Jerry Butts, President of Bower Hill VFD, the money will be used to protect the men and women who fight the fires. "Our Fire Department greatly appreciates the fundraiser by Kristen Rugg. The money will be used to implement several projects that enhance firefighter safety." The primary focus of this year's fundraising dollars falls under the umbrella of improving-safety; whether it is new equipment, classes or gear. As for Kristen Rugg, she presented her written report and received a perfect score. Next year, she plans on attending college at Penn State or the University of Georgia where she will be studying accounting.