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In Topeka, Kans., a retirement community resident's hobby turned into a fundraiser for a local school's athletic program. 

When Virginia Crago, a resident at McCrite Plaza Retirement Community (Topeka, Kans.), started making beaded bracelets for staff members and other residents, she hoped to make one for everyone in the apartment complex. One of the last staff members to receive one was Kim Fertig, McCrite's Marketing Associate.

"When Virginia gave me one of her bracelets, she included one for each of my kids, in their school's colors," Fertig says. "And she told me, 'I've given them to almost everyone here, so I don't know who else I'm going to give them to--but I don't want to stop making them.'

"I could see how much joy it was bringing Virginia," she continues. "So I asked her if she would consider making them as a fundraiser for my kids' school."

After getting approval from the school, Fertig bought beads in the Cair Paravel Latin School (Topeka, Kans.) colors, so Crago wouldn't have to use her own supply. And Fertig reassured Crago that she could make as many or few bracelets as she wanted.

"It was important to me to make sure it would be beneficial to Virginia--not an added stress," Fertig says. "So I told her that it's a small, private school with about 350 kids in the entire school--K through 12--and there was no pressure to make any set number of bracelets."

So far, Crago has made about 125 bracelets, which are being sold for $1 each from the concession stand during basketball games. "The school's administrators were very open to doing this," Fertig says. "They could have said it's such a small fundraiser, or it's going to give them another thing to keep track of at the concessions stand, but they were totally willing to bring the idea on board."

To recognize the contribution, and provide a recreational outing for McCrite Plaza Retirement Community members, the school invited the residents to a home basketball game. Even though high school athletic competitions may not always have the most senior-friendly accommodations, the school made sure to save extra parking spaces close to the building for them. Inside, comfortable chairs were set up, so they wouldn't have to sit on the bleachers--and Fertig made sure to deliver the concessions.

"It was a lot of work for the school, but a great experience for both the students and the residents that attended," she says. " It was nice for them to have a chance to participate in something together. And then the school recognized Virginia with a certificate for her bracelets, which made her beam for days afterward.

"There is a wealth of talent and knowledge in older generations, but they don't always have an outlet for their skills," Fertig continues. "So giving them a way to contribute is important. Virginia was surprised when I told her that the kids would love the bracelets--she had no idea that something that brings her so much enjoyment would also be appreciated by a younger generation. There's so much value in this type of project, beyond whatever funds it brings in for the athletic department."


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