Kids' fund-raisers: How much are they worth to you?


Kids for sales! What am I offered for these kids? Cute little towheads, earnest little faces. Kids for sales! What'll ya give me?

No, no, sorry, sir. You misunderstood. The kids are not for sale. The kids are to sell. You won't find better salesmen than these little tykes. Ask me. I know. Bought a bunch of stuff from them. Gift wrap, cheese, nuts, two-for-one restaurant coupon books, raffle tickets that don't appear to raffle anything. Magazines, books, balloons, family portraits, cookies, chocolate bars.

You name, I've bought it. Didn't want any of it. Just biding my time . . . waiting till my kids had something to sell.

'Tis the season of the fund-raiser. Thousands of children are roaming the streets on these cold, blustery afternoons, selling stuff. They need to make money for their class trip to Williamsburg, Va., their band trip to New York, their basketball team's trip to Florida.

Are you going to any of those places? I didn't think so.

It seems abusive to send these innocents to knock on doors and ask perfect strangers to buy something they don't want or need to support a cause they have no stake in and then to suffer the rejection when people stronger than I say no and slam the door.

I never say no. Girl Scout cookies, cheeses, sausage rolls, spaghetti-dinner tickets, pizza kits, hoagies. I'll take some of each. You know, nobody wants to eat that stuff anymore. It's not good for you. It's just that kids would have a tough time going door to door with a salad bar. And it's impossible for their parents sell fat-free frozen yogurt at the office.

Kids' fund-raisers always involve the parents -- and their co-workers. Just be glad you don't share locker room space with Lawrence Taylor, the New York Giants' fearsome linebacker. He sacked teammates for $3,000 in cookies, candy and gift wrap for his daughter's school.

I have a friend who sells tickets for one daughter's musical theater show before opening night, and she sells refreshments at intermission during its run. She washes cars for her other daughter's basketball team. Isn't this what they used to call indentured servitude?

I've done my fair share, too. I've donated hot dogs for the swim team to sell, doughnuts for the soccer team to sell, and I once donated my husband to a school auction. He would wallpaper one room for the winning bidder. Thank heaven, I thought, when a friend was the winner. But then he got a look at her dining room. He said it was as big as a soccer field. It took him the whole summer.

But, hey, that was me eating dust for three hours while parking cars on the school field during the boat show in Annapolis. Where was my son during an endeavor that was to benefit him and his school? He's tall enough to wave a flag. Get him out here. Sorry, Mom, got tickets for the Navy game.

My nephew was selling magazines to benefit his Catholic high school. The top sellers got a chance to make a half-court basketball shot during a pep rally and win $200. No one made the shot. The school kept the 200 bucks. What a gimmick.

The school also offered lavish prizes -- bikes, boom boxes, telephones -- for the kids who sold $850 worth of magazines. My sister Cynthia's kids got all excited, but she (it is always the mother) was only able to drum up enough subscriptions to win a bendable pen.

Cynthia spends November each year making 50 dozen Christmas crafts for a Santa Shop at school. She's terrific. Has the cutest ideas. Little clothespin reindeer. Great stuff. Do you know how insane she is by Thanksgiving?

I send my kids and a couple of $20 bills to a Santa's Secret Shop at their old school, where they purchase and wrap gifts to give to relatives. I might as well light a match to the money. Miniature screwdriver sets, refrigerator magnets, little note pads. And no change.

Then the kids buy back the cookies I donated, ice them with the icing I donated and eat them while I pay $8 for somebody else's banana bread.

During the Spring Fling, I bought $30 in tickets from each of my children so his or her homeroom would win. Neither one did, of course. My son used $15 worth of tickets to win a gold fish. Then I had to spend $20 on a bowl, gravel, food and a goldfish book.

There is an easier way to raise money. Ask the parents how much they'd pay not to have any fund-raisers. Guaranteed to make you a fortune.

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