ELEELE — Kids will have presents under their trees this Christmas and a puppy has a forever home, thanks to a big-hearted kindergarten class in Eleele.
It was a project-based learning assignment that all started with a dog at the Kauai Humane Society the kids named “Beauty,” whose story they found in an October edition of The Garden Island newspaper.
“We read this story about the dog who was found with its head stuck in a pretzel container,” said teacher Annie Godsill. “It was perfect for this assignment.”
Makoa Mizumoto’s question kicked off the project: “One day, can we look for a dog and get him a house?”
That question launched the class on a mission to save Beauty, who was known as Pretzel around the KHS facility. On Nov. 14, the class mobilized and went to KHS to meet Beauty.
“It was too late and Beauty already went to the Mainland,” said kindergartner Braxton Pililaau.
“That’s when we met Cowboy, the dog that had been there the longest,” Godsill said. “The kids decided they wanted to pay his adoption fees, and we did. Cowboy was adopted that day.”
Washington residents Shawna and Trent Berberich were the lucky people who took Cowboy home at the end of their vacation, after hearing that his way was paid by the Eleele kindergartners.
The class had to raise $221 in order to make the project happen. Godsill let her students decide how to generate the cash to get the mission off the ground.
They thought hard about it.
“We had a lot of good ideas. We thought we could donate the money on our own or we could do chores, and then Chloe had an idea,” Godsill said.
“We decided to have a lemonade stand,” Chloe Coscarella said.
Everyone donated lemons and the adults made a lemon juice and sugar syrup for easy mixing. The kids made signs, advertised, worked the table and made change during the project — and they raised $191.
A donation jar at Waimea Country School and in the Eleele kindergarten classroom contributed an additional $96 for a total of $287.
“We had enough money to get the kids to KHS and to pay the adoption fee for one of the dogs,” Godsill said. “While the kids were on tour, I was introduced to Cowboy.”
But the kids were only out the money for the bus fare for a few days before Patrick and Jacqueline Powaser of Puhi found out about their investment and offered to donate the $221 to pay for the bus.
“We both saw the post on Facebook about it independently and we had the same reaction,” Jacqueline Powaser said. “They went to all that trouble to raise that money and it went toward a bus?”
The project itself was interesting to the couple as well, because it had multiple elements that introduce kids to real-world, problem-solving experiences.
“It wasn’t just lemonade,” Patrick Powaser said. “They also worked on math and ratios and making change. I appreciated (Godsill’s) creativity in building that in there.”
“We said to use it for whatever makes sense,” Jacqueline Powaser said. “If it’s more for the humane society, or a bus trip for the next outing, whatever. We want to make it available for them.”
But the money wasn’t set aside for a bus trip or a pizza party.
Instead, the kids decided they wanted to play Secret Santa through Nana’s House, a program of Child and Family Service that helps families throughout the island.
They placed an order on Amazon for 25 toys on Nov. 30. When the toys arrive, Nancy Golden at Nana’s house will help deliver them.
Even though they dedicated all the money that they raised to helping others, the students get a little treat too: The Powasers included a bit of extra money as a reward for the kids’ hard work.
“Maybe there will be enough money left over for a shave ice party,” Godsill read from a note included in the Powasers’ check for the kids on Monday. “We can do that after we’re done at Nana’s House!”
Diann Hartman, president of the KHS board of directors, said hearing the story “brought a tear to her eye,” as Cowboy was a personal favorite and a tenured resident at the facility.
“(He’s) just a big, ol’ sweet boy, so I was so excited that he finally got adopted,” Hartman said.
“To read how it came about was beyond heartwarming. What an awesome, kind-hearted act by Mrs. Godsill’s students. I applaud her for teaching the kids, at such a young age, such a wonderful lesson of caring and compassion.”
The story teaches a valuable lesson for everyone, she said.
“The lesson is we can all do more. Given this example, encourage your kids, nephews, nieces, grandkids, neighbor kids to do a lemonade sale or whatever and ask them to donate half of what they make to a good cause like this,” Hartman said.
She continued: “And to show your compassion and kindness, tell them you’ll match what they raise, or match it in double. Continue to teach the lesson of giving and kindness instead of complaining and being negative.”