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Are Basket Drawings Teaching Materialism or Teaching a Lesson?

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In the spring, our school holds a basket drawing as their major fundraiser for the year. The basket drawing brings in thousands of dollars for the PTA.

Each class chooses two themes for their baskets – this year my daughter’s class did Star Wars and Monster High. The parents are then asked to donate items on the theme or money to the baskets. No one is forced to donate or participate.

The drawing is usually held on a Thursday, along with a pasta dinner and book fair. During the week of the big drawing, baskets are showcased in the main display cases and tickets are sold. Every student and staff member are given one free ticket to enter.

On the big night, winners’ names are drawn while everyone gathers in the gym.

There is a lot of excitement during the week and especially that night. The community comes together to support the school.

The big problem? There is a lot of excitement and hype over the baskets. There are at least 20 to 30 to choose from and the prizes aren’t wimpy. There are gift card baskets, cash baskets, electronics baskets, toy baskets, spa baskets and even TVs. Our Monster High basket contained at least six dolls, books, a car, clothing and more. Almost every girl in the school was drooling over that basket.

With all those cameras, game systems, dolls, stuffed animals, Legos, sports equipment, gift cards, cash and more, it is easy for the kids to get worked up in hopes of winning one.

Gluttony is wrapped up in a shiny basket with a bow on top.

They have a week to get whipped into a frenzy every time they walk down the halls.

But the odds are against them. With over 400 students in the school, plus staff plus family members, that adds up to a lot of tickets entered.

I have mixed feelings about the basket drawing. On one hand, it’s fun to try to win a basket of goodies while helping the school. On the other, the emotions my children suffer all week long is close to unbearable.

We discuss that the drawing is all luck. No one can win it by strategy. No one is guaranteed to win and the odds are against winning. I try to add some math into the situation by explaining your chances of having one ticket pulled out of 100 tickets in the bucket. I am sure this conversation replays over and over in many homes during that week.

When the night of the drawing arrives, children are excited and ready to win.

Some win, even a few win multiple baskets, but the majority loses. The electricity in the air dampens. The lucky few are ripping open their baskets while some have red eyes, others are crying and the rest are just ready to go home.

My daughter is one of the ones with red eyes. She gets so excited and then so disappointed. We have never won a thing.

As we walk out of the gym, parents are explaining to their deflated children that the drawing benefits the school and that is the important thing. But how does that really make a difference in the life of an 8-year-old who spent a week fantasizing over winning a Wii?

This is a tough night for so many. It’s hard to walk out empty handed while a few can’t carry their winning stash.

I struggle, because I feel this promotes materialism and acquiring things. But it’s the school’s big fund raiser. Education is something we should all support. A tradition. A “fun” week.

Some parents admit to taking their children to the mall after the drawing to buy something to make it better. One mom told me a few years back that she took her kids to the pet store to buy a hamster after they lost the hamster basket.

Is this truly a great learning experience for the kids while also making a little cash for the school on the side? Or does this just reinforce materialism and yearning for the big prize in the kids’ impressionable minds? What does your school do to raise money?

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  • comment avatar Amber Johnson April 18, 2012

    Maybe my school is an underachiever as it pertains to the baskets? We did them for our fundraiser and parents were asked to contribute to their grade level…but there was no hype and my kiddos never mentioned it at all.

    I say if it’s not cookie sales or butter braids, I’m behind it!

    • comment avatar Susan April 18, 2012

      Amber – I agree. The cookie dough sales get really old. As much as our school has tried to get rid of them, they are still a big money maker, so they keep it. I do love the basket fundraiser. It’s fun and is a huge support for the school, but it’s hard to see the kids get so hyped up and then distraught. Maybe it’s just teaching a good life lesson.

  • comment avatar Bryn Brody April 18, 2012

    In Houston for fundraising, they send the sports teams and cheerleaders out to the freeway overpasses in their uniforms to hold up signs asking for donations. I’m not a fan of the basket drawings and don’t participate, but I’d rather see raffles than begging. Even better, I’d love to figure out a way for the kids to help earn money–car washes (which was suggested to the Principal, she okayed it and then it got lost in scheduling), bake sales, rummage sales, that sort of thing. To me, raffles teach more about gambling than I’m comfortable with, but who can argue with the desperate need for cash? And, the baskets are a reasonably low-effort draw, except for the generous parents who put them together.

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