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Run helps Arlee’s ‘Friends’ give back to school

ARLEE — It’s almost time for the first run of the spring in Arlee, and there are more than a few good reasons to participate, no matter your stance on exercise. The annual Buttercup Run, a fundraiser for the Friends of Arlee School, Inc., is March 27, and every entrance fee goes directly to improve the quality of education for Arlee students.

For nearly two decades, the group of about eight caring volunteers has proven themselves to be true friends to the school and community of Arlee. Last year alone, the Friends of Arlee gave more than $5,000 to Arlee teachers, classes and programs for items not included in the school’s budget. They also awarded more than $8,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors, and administered $6,000 to the Arlee Summer Leadership Program. Especially in a working class community like Arlee, their efforts make a huge difference in local students’ lives.

It all started in 1992, when the Arlee School needed someone to manage a grant it received to fund a school counselor position. The Friends of Arlee formed as a nonprofit organization to take on the task, and gradually the group evolved into a scholarship program. 

“As needs arose, this group stepped up,” Friends member Merrill Bradshaw said.

Through the generosity of local businesses that sponsor the Buttercup Run, combined with entry fees for the event, the Friends are able to raise enough money to give scholarships to several graduating Arlee High School seniors each year. The group aims to provide $10,000 in scholarships annually, board member Cherie Garcelon said, with awards ranging from $250 to $2,000 per student.

To qualify for a scholarship, a student must fill out an application, submit a high school transcript and write a short essay about his or her goals for the future, “so we can see what their interests are and what they want to do with the money,” Garcelon explained.

While the Friends do consider students’ GPAs, low grades don’t necessarily disqualify applicants, she added. 

“We don’t have the restrictions of some scholarships,” she said. “Ours is need-based, but it’s also person-based. We actually look at (the students’) futures and what they want to do.”

“Almost always, everyone who applies gets some money,” board member Roger Christopher added. “We’re pretty open to looking at the applicants and figuring out what they might need.”

The Friends hope their efforts will entice students to attend college when they might not be able to without some financial help. The Friends’ board members are parents of Arlee students, business owners and community members with jobs and busy lives — especially in the weeks leading up to the Buttercup Run — but knowing they’re helping young people achieve their dreams makes the extra work worthwhile, Christopher said.

“It’s nice to have a job where you’re giving people money,” he said.

Recently, the Friends of Arlee have been able to give even more money to the school in the form of equipment and classroom supplies not covered in the school’s budget. In December, teachers are asked to submit applications detailing what they need in their classrooms, and the Friends board distributes about $250 per teacher, Garcelon said.

“We’ve been able to buy band instruments for the school band, high school and elementary,” board member Joe Weydt explained.

All will have the chance to join the Friends’ efforts when the Buttercup Run takes off March 27.

“The run’s been a really good thing,” Weydt said. “It’s not just a fundraiser; it’s a community thing.”

The Buttercup Run includes a 1Mile Fun Run, 5K and 10K distances. Medals and prizes will be awarded, and a shirt designed with local art provided to all registered participants. Early registration is encouraged, as more than 400 participants are expected.

•10 a.m. late registration and shirt pick up

•10:30 a.m. 10K walkers start

•11 a.m. 1M, 5K, 10K start

For more information, contact arl3335@blackfoot.net or visit www.buttercuprun.com 

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