Home run

Oklahoma Key Clubbers raise funds for fellow students in need

Story by Julie Saetre

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On the morning of Lawton High School Key Club’s Stride 4 Shelter Bubble Run last month, fate did not seem kind. Oklahoma’s warm spring temperatures had plummeted under low-hanging gray clouds. And the day’s star—the bubble machine—was malfunctioning. But the Key Clubbers remained undaunted: Their mission was too important to be sidetracked by a little bad luck.

The run raises funds for the McKinney-Vento homeless education-assistance program, which helps homeless youth secure the services necessary to remain in school and continue their educations. More than 750 kids in Lawton Public Schools, ranging from pre-kindergarteners to high school seniors, meet the program’s definition of homeless by lacking a “fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.”

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“This program helps homeless students by attempting to replace the financial support they would normally get from their parents or guardians,” explains Key Club President Sean Tolbert. “The program funds things like school trips, buying uniforms or school supplies, paying club dues and the other costs that come with school.”

Two years ago, members learned that some of the school’s 100 homeless students wanted to become involved in Key Club but couldn’t do so because they lacked money for dues, says club advisor Alicia Najera.

“‘We have these great kids, they want to participate, they want to help out in the community. How can we help them with dues?’” Najera recalls her members asking. “So we decided to start helping the programs that could help us with that problem.”

Members launched a project through which anonymous donors could pay for a homeless youth’s dues, either through the club or the McKinney-Vento program. And last year, the club held its first Stride 4 Shelter Bubble Run. Key Clubbers did all the work: planning, promoting, acquiring corporate sponsorships, designing race ads. This year, they added another task to the list: blowing bubbles. Literally. Members used a leaf blower to disperse bubbles from the faulty rental machine.

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The Key Club has raised more than US$7,000 from the 2016 and ’17 races, and those funds are doing far more than paying club dues.

“Just last year,” Tolbert says, “the McKinney-Vento Program shared that without our contributions, three seniors would not have had a cap and gown for graduation. These students would not have been able to walk the stage at graduation.”

The club’s goal of gaining new members also is being fulfilled. Last year, the club welcomed two homeless members; today, 10 of the club’s 48 members fit that category.

Key Clubbers work throughout the school year to raise awareness of homeless youth. On Lime Out LHS day last November, for example, club members donned lime-green clothing and “Ask Me!” badges to encourage conversations about the topic.

“Most of our projects are geared toward homelessness,” Najera says. “If we can make a difference right here in our own backyard, then that’s what we need to focus the majority of our attention on.”

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