Fifth-Grader Raises $5,000 for Evergreen Elementary Trip


Ted Olinger

Emily Reaney, 10, enjoys a brief recess between her learning and fundraising duties. Photo: Ted Olinger, KP News

Emily Reaney, 10, of Lakebay raised $5,000 for her fifth-grade class to attend a three-day, two-night Environmental Learning Class at Camp Seymour. The cost of the overnight trip for the 36 fifth-graders of Evergreen Elementary School, including accommodation and transportation for staff and volunteers, is $5,700.

Emily’s mother, Cathy Reaney, thought it would be worth Emily speaking to her grandfather’s retiree lunch group to appeal for donations. Roger Coleman was a longshoreman in Tacoma for over 40 years and meets regularly with fellow International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 23 members for social events.

Emily thought she would be talking to her grandfather and a few of his friends, but there were 40 people at the luncheon.

“I was a little bit nervous,” she said. “A lot nervous. I was sinking down in my chair.”

After some encouragement from President Mike Jagielski, Emily successfully delivered her speech. The Pension Club donated $500 and an additional $500 came from individual members.

“I thought we might get a couple of scholarships,” Cathy said. “I was even more shocked when these guys were reaching into their wallets and handing her cash.”

The Pension Club encouraged Emily to speak again that evening to the full, active membership of ILWU 23, about 80 people.

“The second time was easier,” Emily said. “They were giving us $100 bills. My mom was crying. It was very surprising.”

The full membership donated another $4,000, bringing Emily’s total to $5,000. Grants from the Longbranch Improvement Club and the Angel Guild, together with donations from the community, will fund the remaining $700 needed for the trip. Anything left over will be saved for next year, according to Denise Ohlson, fifth-grade teacher at Evergreen.

“It is an annual trip to camp that otherwise many of these kids would never get to do,” she said. Her longtime colleague, Jim Inglebritson, who died in 2015, started the trips in 2003.

“They have academic groups where they’ll learn about sustainability and study a Living Machine using gray water to fertilize instead of pumping it into the Sound,” Ohlson said. “They’ll learn about forest ecology, marine life, what lives in the estuary, what lives in the tidelands, how to keep the water around the Key Peninsula clean. It’s all matched up with our science standards.”

Ohlson has been a teacher for 37 years; she has been at Evergreen the last 10.

“The other thing that’s really important for us is that, after we come back, we learn how to craft a friendly letter and thank all of the people who helped us,” she said.

Emily was born with a high-frequency hearing loss that affects her speech. “She’s had hearing aides since she was 6 months old and that made a big difference,” Cathy said. “She’s been working with speech therapists at Mary Bridge (Children’s Hospital) and, once she got into the school district here at 3, they’ve been working with her here, too.”

The ILWU members were not aware that Emily has a hearing loss. “I’m guessing they just assumed that was the way she speaks,” Cathy said. “By the time she gave the speech the second time, she had a lot more confidence and could work through it without the same level of horror she had the first time. They were incredibly supportive of her.”

There has been a residual effect in the classroom too, according to Ohlson. “I can tell you that since then, in class, Emily has been raising her hand more,” she said. “She has been more confident. I see a change in math. There’s just something about her.”

When asked if she would deliver another fundraising speech in the future, Emily said, “I think so,” after some reflection.

Her immediate plans include playing games on her iPad and helping care for the family’s animals, including chickens, turkeys, goats and two Anatolian Shepherds.

“I want to study animals and nature,” she said. “That is what I like.”