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NORTH BRANFORD - In April, North Branford High School (NBHS) students helped turn $1 into $11,000-or, more specifically, $11,231-as they tallied the total raised by teams participating in the school's Big Give charitable fundraising effort.
The gathering of thousands of dollars for charity marks yet another successful program that follows in the footsteps of those undertaken in 2010 and 2012. All told, NBHS Big Give efforts have raised nearly $40,000 in funds over the years, said Big Give co-advisor and NBHS teacher Stephanie Byrd.
Byrd co-founded the program as student council advisor in 2010 and collaborated on it this year with new council advisor and NBHS teacher Jessica Barbato. Byrd was originally inspired by Oprah Winfrey's 2008 Big Give initiative. The NBHS program raised $10,000 in its first year and earned NBHS a Challenge to Educational Citizenship Award from State Student Advisory Council on Education and Connecticut's commissioner of education. In 2012, NBHS Big Give teams raised an astounding $18,000 for more than 20 worthy local organizations and statewide affiliates of national causes.
The 2014 edition of the Big Give involved 20 student teams and one staff team. Each began with a ceremonial dollar from the student council coffers, pledging to find creative ways in the community to turn it into more money for the charity of their choice over four months' time.
In April, students, supporters and representatives of many of the charitable organizations they supported gathered in the NBHS cafeteria for a Big Give celebration, during which the total amount raised was revealed.
"The Big Give reception was a huge success," said Byrd. "Our audience was filled with students, parents, administrators, teachers, honorees, and recipients. Tears were shed and laughs were made as we all acknowledged the efforts of our students and staff."
One of the recipient charitable organizations was North Branford-based Matt's Mission Fund. Founder Lynn Riordan made a special note of the gratitude and appreciation she felt for all of the students involved in making the Big Give a success.
"To these students, my friends, I thank you from the bottom of my heart," said Riordan. "Matt's Mission Fund was founded because I felt the love of our entire North Branford Community after Matt died?These acts of kindness propelled me forward in my time of grief and prompted me to want to give back. Thank you to all the students for thinking outside of your own boxes to care about others. Great job."