Students at Ilchester Elementary School in Ellicott City have been named “heart heroes,” and last week, they certainly looked the part.
Students crammed into the gymnasium Friday, March 28, many wearing superhero capes, or Superman t-shirts. But these superheros were doing something borderline dastardly: “sliming” their principal, assistant principal, and several teachers, pouring a mixture of flour, water and green food coloring over the heads of their educators.
The “sliming” was a reward for raising more than $32,000 for the American Heart Association over the past few months, collecting donations from their families, friends and neighbors, all while learning in class the importance of heart health.
Ilchester has been raising money for the American Heart Association for a number of years, said Rachel Collins, youth market director for the mid-Atlantic affiliate for the organization. Every year, the fundraiser is capped off with a Hoops for Hearts event, where teams of fourth- and fifth-graders play against staff. That event was held March 7 and, thankfully, the staff won, said physical education teacher Margaret Buckmaster.
“We had a height advantage,” she said.
Buckmaster and fellow physical education teacher Roxanne Lohmeyer lead the fundraising efforts every year, and they get into it as much as the kids, Buckmaster said.
“I was egging them on, knowing they’d have a chance to slime me,” she said. “They were out to get me and that’s fine.”
Students who raised more than $75 got to slime their teachers and administrators, and they gleefully ran down the line to pour their cup of flour, water and green food dye on Buckmaster’s head, over and over again. Several times, she offered to hug the students after they were done sliming her, but they ran away shrieking with laughter.
Friday’s event was split into two groups — the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders first, and then the kindergarten, first- and second-graders. After the first group was done with the sliming, staff put out markers on the gym floor in the shape of a heart, and students filled the space, holding up red sheets of paper to complete the image. That exercise was repeated with the second group, who also got a special surprise: a flash mob from the teachers, singing along to revised lyrics to “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart,” by Elton John and Kiki Dee. This time, however, the song was “Thanks For Saving Our Hearts.”
“We wanted to do something that would motivate the students, something that would be fun,” Lohmeyer said. “We’ve done pies in the face before, and we wanted to do something different. We thought they would enjoy sliming their teachers and administrators. And they did.”
Without a poncho, Buckmaster said that though the kids were having a blast, she was freezing cold. Green slime dripped from her short blonde hair after the first group of kids exited the gym. She said she had a hair appointment set up for Tuesday, just in case the food coloring didn’t rinse out.
Ilchester guidance counselor Cherryl White didn’t need a hair appointment. She was covered in a shower cap and poncho, though the slime was caked onto her face by the end of the first round of students.
“I feel great,” she said. “I always look for the rainbow, so I’m just patting the slime down and hoping that it makes for a good facial or something, you know?”
The $32,048 is the most the school has ever raised for the American Heart Association, White said, though last year they came close, with $22,000. The reward for students last year was a chance to pie their teachers in the face, and White volunteered for that, too.
“It’s always so wonderful,” she said. “The community is always so supportive when we do something like this, so how could I not volunteer?”
Collins, the American Heart Association representative said Ilchester is one of the top two fundraisers in Howard County — Waverly Elementary School in Ellicott City, raised about $33,000 as well, and had a sliming event Friday also.
“The kids get it,” Collins said. “The teachers here are really good at explaining why they’re raising money, and there are stories everywhere.”
Such stories line a hallway in Ilchester, like that of Kim Kettering, a technology teacher at the school. Kettering was born with a hole in her heart, and had corrective surgery at age 10.
“It makes this personal,” Lohmeyer said. “It hits home for them, when they think about who they’re raising money in honor of, or in memory of, if that’s the case. We talk a lot about that. It definitely is a personal thing.”