O’Fallon Moose and community partners donate to Fulton Life Skills class

Fulton Life Skills Class

Front row, from left: Mike Smith, Dylan Clark, Kristi Correll, Luke Ellerbeck, Dorian Mcneese, Taylor Martin, Christian Saenz, Max Wiggins, Kelly Cooper. Back row, from left: Maalik Abdus-Salaam, Val Wilder, Connor Pyrdeck, Isaac Steward, Matthew Eversole, Connor Auld, Taj Diltz, Matthew Hart, Alex Mueller, Lisa Hopkins, Christine Williams, Anna Correale, Lavanda Calmese, Payton Davison. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

O’FALLON – The students in the Life Skills class at Fulton Junior High School received a special gift last Friday. Mike Smith, a member of the O’Fallon Moose, presented the class with a donation totaling more than $2,000.

Smith, whose nephew is in the Life Skills class, said he wanted to raise the funds to help the get the kids what they needed to learn.

“In April we started this project. My nephew is in this class and we wanted to raise some money. It seemed like there wasn’t much done for the special needs classes. My nephew has autism and we said let’s do something in April, which is Autism Awareness Month,” Smith said. “At the Moose, we used our monthly barbecue as a fundraiser. We raised $1,000 at the barbecue and then we kicked in more so we could give a check for $1,500. We wanted to help them pay for things like their garden and the outings.”

Smith said he’d like to thank O’Fallon VFW Post 805, the O’Fallon American Legion, the O’Fallon Moose, and Mandy’s Bar for their contributions and help raising funds. With their help, Smith raised $2,025 for the class.

Smith said he’s thrilled to have received support from the community to help special needs kids in the local area.

“You always hear about giving to these big national organizations. Not that it doesn’t go to a good cause, but you don’t know where the money goes. This goes directly to our home and to local classrooms,” Smith said.

Kristi Correll, who is the Life Skills teacher, said the donation is very appreciated and will go towards a great number of projects.

“Since we are a Life Skills class, we’ll use it to buy groceries for the kitchen. We cook one period a day and teach the kids how to make snacks and meals. We also have a garden in the back that we’ll use part of the donation to buy plants and help maintain it,” said Correll. “We also started a buddy program with the National Junior Honor Society kids. They come in during their elective period and they help with peer tutoring and maybe some art projects. It’s been so successful and the kids have loved it. So next year instead of doing it two days a week, we’re hoping to do it five days a week. We’ll use this donation for supplies for that too and hopefully develop a curriculum.”

Correll wanted to express her gratitude for the assistance and donations from the community.

“It’s so wonderful. O’Fallon is the best. And its great to have parents and uncles who jump up and offer their time and energy to help. It makes you proud to be in O’Fallon,” said Correll. “Mike came up and said he’s going to do this. I just couldn’t believe it. I thought maybe he’d raise a couple hundred dollars, but he went far and above. Everyone came to the barbecue. Parents and teachers showed up. All of the police and firefighters and EMT’s came by.”

Smith said the barbecue was so successful they ran out of food by 2:30 p.m., which has never happened to the Moose before. He said people still came by and donated even though the food was gone.

Fulton Principal Joi Wills said Smith’s assistance came at a great time and will help the Life Skills class advance some projects they’ve been working on.

“It’s absolutely wonderful to have this kind of support. These kids are my breath of fresh air because they are just real kids. Yes, they have disabilities, issues, and concerns, but they are wonderful kids to be around,” said Wills. “Mike helped get the word out about projects that we’ve had going on for a while but that we needed assistance with completing. The district has limited resources and its wonderful that the community is willing to do extra to help our initiatives in the classroom.”

Smith said this donation is only the first of many and that he and his Moose brothers are already making plans for next April.

“We definitely want to make this an annual thing,” Smith said.