For four years, the Owasso FFA Chapter in Oklahoma has raised money for its local community at Christmas time. But this year, it cost their officer team a pie in the face, literally.
As part a of local campaign called HUGS, which stands for Hats Underwear Gloves and Socks, the Owasso High School was encouraged to donate and purchase these clothing items to go directly to local families in need. The school’s 150-member FFA chapter stepped up with its own part of the campaign and issued a special challenge to its membership and parents.
The officers offered to take a pie in the face to raise money for HUGS and did so by passing a collection bucket for each FFA officer. The bucket with the most money collected at the end of the campaign earned that officer a pie in the face.
This was not the first holiday fundraiser for the Owasso FFA. It has participated in an annual Christmas fundraiser and the FFA team raised between $200 and $300 for its previous contributions. This year the Owasso FFA chapter president Piper Merritt and treasurer Cal Day said the officer team wanted to step up their donation. Their pie in the face fundraiser collected $560, sixty dollars more than the chapter’s goal. And with the laughs and fun that also came with throwing pies in the faces of FFA leaders, he and Merritt considered the Christmas project a success.
“We held a Christmas party for the chapter three years ago and had participated in a Christmas campaign since then, but this year as chapter officers, Piper and I really wanted to get the entire chapter involved,” Day says. “Our officer team came up with a plan that would put ourselves and our ag teachers at risk. We set a goal of $500 and it brought in the bucks.”
The six chapter officers set an original goal of $25 each, claiming that they had to raise at least that or take a pie in the face. That amount was raised so quickly the Owasso FFA Chapter advisors stepped in. Both agriculture instructors Jonathan Holloway and Scott Nemecek offered to up the ante and take pie in the face too.
Owasso FFA Chapter members are very involved showing livestock and leadership, with many students working and learning from the school’s farm. Merritt’s family raises and shows pigs and Day’s main FFA activity is public speaking. Both feel fortunate their FFA chapter encourages them to be active in career development events and leadership camps and conferences throughout the year.
Owasso High School offers four agriculture classes, one for each grade eight through twelve so the interaction with active ag students and FFA members is constant. But what really made Merritt and Day proud, is that every agriculture student donated to the HUGS Pie in the Face contest.
“We walked around with trays of donation buckets to gather money each day for a week and posted the totals on the board,” Day says. “The students really got excited when we mentioned the ag teachers were involved.”
The first day the officers set out a single donation bucket and Merritt says HUGS Pie in the Face raised $85 immediately. When the officer team threw their individual faces into the pie contest, the donation totals shot to $200. Every day after the donations continued to grow. A couple of students brought $20 each day and one student brought a 50-dollar bill himself. Day’s mom even gave him a $100 check to donate.
Merritt says students were excited about the pies but also about the cause behind the whip cream. She says this kind of activity teaches generosity about giving to those in need and also giving at the local level.
“It was truly rewarding to get to work with these kids all year round and serve as chapter officers,” she says. “It was for a fun but also for a serious cause and it’s rewarding to see everyone come together and donate and support the community.”
Merritt and Day were not afraid to get in the giving spirit themselves. Day says he put quite a bit of money into Merritt’s bucket and she returned the favor each time with her own donation into his jar. At the end of the contest Day was the big winner and received the first pie in the face.
“I really felt the love of my fellow FFA members when I won with $157 in my bucket,” he says.
As seniors, both Merritt and Day will pass the FFA officer torch on and they hope next year’s team comes up with an even bigger fundraiser for the HUGS program. Day says he is sure the generosity will continue because FFA is like a family. When a farmer loses a barn in a fire or if community residents need cold weather clothing items he knows FFA members will step in and help.
Merritt says it’s also good to know that a chapter of their size can unite under one cause. The total amount raised by HUGS at Owasso High School this season was $1,700.
“It was not only an FFA effort but it’s great to see all of our students and parents chip in,” she says. “That’s what Christmas is about.”