The other day my 11 year old came home with the twice yearly fundraising packet. I used to seriously groan at these things because the merchandise they were peddling was usually crap.

Over the years I have purchased:

  • a wrapping paper cutter that didn’t work
  • a Christmas card door holder that was made of cheap cardboard. I get a pitifully small amount of Christmas cards each year, and this thing fell apart under their weight.
  • a ceiling fan chain pull that broke at tug #1
  • tons and tons of plants, bulbs and seeds that never, ever bloomed

I finally gave up and tossed every packet in the trash after a quick perusal. But a few years back they began adding magazine subscriptions to the selections. They were reasonably priced, and they had a few titles I was interested in – hell, our subscription to “Entertainment Weekly” has been purchased through fundraising for the past two years at least. So we began to buy again.

Each year, our daughter would gush over the prizes you could win by selling “x” amount of items, and each time I would tell her to cool her jets. I can’t buy enough to get her to the “x” factor, and I do not like asking family to buy – I always feel like they are buying out of obligation, and that makes me uncomfortable. I know I buy out of a sense of guilt any time I’ve been invited to one of those hostess parties. I’ve got a set of fancy glasses in my cabinet that I rarely use as proof.

So I tell her to ignore the prizes  – they are usually crap anyway. Besides, the point is to make money for the school, and with our magazine subscriptions she is doing just that.

Enter the winter of 2013 fundraiser.

They have changed things this year. Rather than earning a yo-yo or a stuffed animal by selling “x” amount, you earn admission into an event at the school. Seems her school is having a BMX bike show, and if you don’t sell at least 5 items, you ain’t going. They even had a rally in the gym to get the kids all revved up – the bikers are going to jump over the principal if you sell enough!

At first, I thought to myself “how am I going to get 5 subscriptions sold? She’s got to go to this thing! She’s got to go!” I sent an email out to my family and one friend asking them to buy, even though it was way outside my comfort zone. But she was so jazzed to attend this show that I wasn’t thinking.

Then, as I read the flyer they sent home, I began to get angry. I understand how important fundraising is to schools these days, but this is wrong. It’s blackmail for one. They know that the kids are going to run home and demand that their parents help them meet the minimum sales to be able to attend the show. If the parent doesn’t have the ways or the means to help their child, then they are left feeling like shit. They are then also left with the unpleasant task of telling little Freddy that he was going to have a bad day at school in the near future. A day where classmates would be excused from class to have an afternoon of fun.

And what does the school do with the kids who did not meet the minimum and therefore are not permitted to attend? Do they sit in the library? Or in a classroom?

And even worse, if you sold “x” above the minimum, you got preferred seating, which could mean participation in the show, plus a meet and greet with the performers afterward. More pressure from your kid to sell sell sell! Now getting in the gym to see the show wasn’t quite good enough.

I looked at my situation…unemployed and watching every dime. I can buy one subscription, but that’s all. What if no other family members came through? The thought of my little girl having to watch all of her classmates head out to watch the show while they left her behind killed me. And I knew that there would be others – kids whose parents are in my shoes financially, or kids who have parents that just don’t give a crap.

It’s not right.  It just doesn’t sit right with me.

So, I sent out a second email telling everyone to disregard my first. Yes, if they wanted a magazine, they could buy. But I told them what my school was doing and that I did not agree with it, so there was no obligation. That in fact, I would prefer that they just ignore the whole thing.

I plan on sending an email to whoever is in charge. I want some answers about what is going to happen to the kids who are not allowed to attend. But I tell you, there’s a very good chance that I’m going to keep my girl home that day. Maybe we’ll have a picnic, or go to a movie.

I doubt she’ll be missing much that day anyway. Except for a good dose of humiliation.