Building wishes

MONROE – Piedmont High School senior Lydia McNamara knows what it’s like to receive something wonderful in the midst of a difficult time.

(Above) A number of birdhouses were auctioned off to raise money for Make-A-Wish.

(Above) A number of birdhouses were auctioned off to raise money for Make-A-Wish.

Lydia, who was diagnosed with common variable immunodeficiency, was chosen last year as a wish recipient by the Make-A-Wish Foundation and received a four-day, all-expenses-paid shopping spree to New York City.

“It was a fun experience that I can always remember, hopefully through all the bad things,” Lydia said. “It was a good thing that I got to experience that I can always turn to” when things get rough.

Lydia’s peers are using her story as the driving force behind an art and science project that’s raising money to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Art students in Susan Helms’s and Tracy Price’s classes, along with students in science teacher Annette Harris’s advanced placement earth and environmental science class, recently joined forces to create and decorate more than 50 unique birdhouses they’re selling to raise money for the foundation.

“We’re very fortunate because all of our staff works together to educate students,” Price said. “It’s important that we teach them in class curriculum how to be a better person (and) to give back, that they recognize there’s more to school than going through the motions and taking a test.”

Piedmont High received a grant from Union Power Cooperative’s Bright Ideas program to help fund the birdhouses. Some students have built their own birdhouses, while others turned in sketches with design ideas. Price gave the sketches to friend and carpenter Cary Walters, who built birdhouses based on the students’ blueprints. Students then decorated and added on to the birdhouses.

“It’s been a really fun project for everyone involved – an easy way to raise money for a charity we’re really passionate about,” Price said.

Birdhouse designs ranged from tiki huts, security cameras and a bathtub with a man fishing to smaller, abstract ceramic designs. Many of the houses resemble small cottages, and some of the science students made birdhouses using recycled material.

“The kids have just been so, so creative,” Price said.

The school decided to host a silent auction to sell the birdhouses, with the proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Eventually, the idea expanded into hosting multiple auctions, including one at Monroe Crossing Mall on March 25. The students have raised $1,100 so far from selling 21 birdhouses, and there are several additional auctions and selling opportunities coming up.

The Piedmont cluster volleyball tournament will take place Thursday, April 10, at 6 p.m. at Piedmont High, 3006 Sikes Mill Road, and is open to the community. The school will host a silent auction during the event from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the school’s new gymnasium. Students also will sell houses at the 2014 Spring Downtown Art Walk on Friday and Saturday, April 11 and 12, in downtown Monroe. They’ll also auction off birdhouses at SouthPark Mall in Charlotte in a silent auction on April 26, a Saturday.

Part of what has driven the students to put their best foot forward, Price said, is Lydia’s story and how her trip – which included visits to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and Empire State Building and shopping sprees to Best Buy and Forever 21 – made her life a little better during a dark

“It’s just become more personal to them, knowing a student that’s their age who has benefitted from the great things Make-A-Wish does,” Price said. “… It just makes me so proud to see it in action and to see them embrace this. That’s why we teach – this is why I teach, to do projects like this.”

Lydia said it’s been encouraging to see her peers step up to the plate and support an organization that’s given her so much.

“I think it’s good that people are being made aware of different organizations,” she said. “There are people in their own community going through hard times, (and) being made aware is the first step in helping people in the community who go through these struggles.”


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