Porter Ridge Middle set for third annual Chairs for Charity

Middle school fundraiser benefits cancer support charities

by Josh Whitener

Porter Ridge Middle art teacher Nicole Crowley (right) helps her students paint chairs to be auctioned off to support Relay For Life and Cindy’s Hope Chest. Josh Whitener/UCW photo

INDIAN TRAIL – Porter Ridge Middle School art students are using a unique tool to help women fight cancer: a paintbrush. For the third year in a row, eighth-graders in two yearlong art classes are taking part in Chairs for Charity, where students paint wooden chairs to auction off to raise money for charity.

“We wanted to do something to incorporate things outside of the classroom, (with) the community, businesses, parents,” art teacher Nicole Crowley said.

The money raised will be split between Relay For Life, the annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, and Cindy’s Hope Chest, a local nonprofit helping local women diagnosed with breast cancer.

“We have a lot of students that cancer has really affected,” Crowley said. “So when we we’re choosing charities, we tried to choose something that would directly impact the students that were creating the pieces of art.”

Wooden chairs are donated to the school for Chairs for Charity. Students will decorate the chairs according to a theme. This year’s themes include “The Hunger Games,” Starbucks, Barbie and the NFL, among others.

Crowley got the idea at a North Carolina arts conference several years ago where a colleague was doing a similar project with his students. Crowley returned and pitched the idea to Porter Middle leaders and teachers who immediately gave their full support.

The students work on the chairs for about a month and a half. When they’re not participating in extracurricular activities, many students stay after school to work on their chairs.

“The kids get really attached (to the chairs),” Crowley said. “They get upset to see them go, but they know that it’s for a good cause.”

Sarah Welch, 14, selected Coca Cola for her chair’s design. Sarah is incorporating the product’s logo, bottle and signature polar bear into her painting.

“At first we started off with other designs, but they weren’t original enough,” she said. “So when we decided that people like Coca Cola – a lot of people collect things like that – we thought it’d be a great hit.”

Kelly McCarthy, 14, decided to take a different approach with her chair, reaching out specifically to the people her charity supports. She chose Carolina Girl for her theme, which uses a blend of hot pink and lime green colors.

“I knew if I had cancer, I wouldn’t want something that was dark-colored,” she said. “I would want something that was bright and that would cheer me up.”

In 2010, Chairs for Charity raised $2,500 with 35 different chairs. Last year, 36 chairs brought in $3,190. A Hello Kitty chair from last year brought in $300 – the highest price any chair has fetched since the project started in 2010.

Students will paint 38 chairs this year.

Crowley is grateful the community has gotten so involved in the past and hopes to see the same support this year.

“It really builds (the students’) confidence even more than I can do, by having people that are outside of the school here, willing to actually pay their hard-earned money for one of these chairs that (the students) worked so hard on,” Crowley said.

For Sarah, the confidence comes through using her talent to help others.

“It makes me feel really good,” she said. “I know I’m doing something for a cause, and not just painting to put it in my room.”

Chairs go on display at 9 a.m. April 20, at Porter Ridge Middle, 2827 Ridge Road, where parents, teachers and the public are invited to place bids. The highest bidders during that day will take home their chairs that night.

Pizza and drinks will be for sale, and local restaurants and retailers, including Olive Garden, Rossini’s, Chili’s, O’Charley’s, Food Lion and Gimme a Cupcake, plan to donate desserts for a bake sale, which will benefit the charities as well.

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