Ross valley schools.

Neve Galmarini, 9, helps sell bracelets for the Free the Children Club at Wade Thomas Elementary School in San Anselmo on June 8, 2016. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal) It’s just after dismissal at Wade Thomas Elementary School in San Anselmo, and dozens of children are mobbing a courtyard table where students in bright blue T-shirts are selling rafiki bracelets. “It’s like this every time we have a sale,” said Amy Blanchard, a parent volunteer with Ross Valley Free the Children. The student-led club, whose members volunteer in the community and lead fundraising drives, raised $22,000 this school year to help provide clean water in Ecuador. “I enjoy helping people who don’t have a lot of things we have – like clean water,” said Mina Swaim, 10, one of the many children sporting the blue T-shirts inscribed with “Bring out the good.” Free The Children is an international charity that works with schools to educate and empower students ages 8 to 14. As the name suggests, Ross Valley Free the Children is the Ross Valley School District’s chapter. The club launched two years ago at the Wade Thomas school, where it has 40 members. Participation expanded to 40 at White Hill Middle School this year and 25 at Manor Elementary. Brookside is just getting started, Blanchard said. Advertisement “I like to help out,” said Nicholas Lillevand, 10, as he stood in line to buy a bracelet. “I want to give back.” The bracelets, made of tiny multicolored beads, are just a small part of the club’s activities. It also used lemonade stands, bake sales, organized walks and clothing drives, said Annelise Bauer, a school board member who is also a volunteer. “It’s fun. We get to do a lot of activities. We did Walk for Water. We hiked to the top of Bald Hill,” said Rowan Forte, 10. The Walk for Water was the centerpiece of this year’s fundraising. More than 250 people participated in the walk from Wade Thomas to the top of the hill. “The kids designed the logo,” a drop of water with the words “Walk for Water” inside, said Helen Badger, a San Anselmo parent and teacher. “We talked about ways to market (the walk),” Badger said. “They came up with a list of downtown businesses, then visited them and asked for sponsorships.” Sponsors included Tam Realty, Haney Orthodontics, Hint Water and Tamalpais Pediatrics. “We had a student announcer and a raffle. Kid sold tickets in their neighborhoods,” Bauer said. “We had a DJ and a fire truck.” Third-grade teacher Mary Stratton said, “Our turnout at Walk for Water was amazing. I’m super excited to have the kids working for a cause.” In addition to fundraising, the students volunteer in the community. “We fed the homeless as part of REST,” Badger said. That program provides rotating emergency shelter for homeless people during the cold fall, winter and early spring months. Hallea Carroll, 8, said her favorite activity was packaging goods at the food bank. “The most fun part was the thought that you’re going to help children,” Hallea said. “It feels really good because you are helping.” David Nolen Swaim Owner Tam Realty Inc DRE-1070789 609 San Anselmo Ave San Anselmo CA 94960 415-710-5504

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