By John Anderson

During a family trip to South Africa in 2005, Julia Bancroft Physical Education teacher Ann Guinane got to see many of Africa’s beautiful creatures – elephants, zebra, and the big cats. She also witnessed the poverty in local villages around Kruger National Park. Children were malnourished, water might be an hour’s walk away, and schools were a rare sight. After this life changing experience, Ms. Guinane aligned herself with Pride ‘n Purpose, a charity supporting children in disadvantaged communities in South Africa.

The Turkey makes his debut at Julia Bancroft Elementary School. ©John R. Anderson

The Turkey makes his debut at Julia Bancroft Elementary School. ©John R. Anderson

Pride ‘n Purpose works to provide safe drinking water sources in these communities. They also support the schools and orphanages, helping to construct schools, homes, medical facilities and gardens which are then maintained by the students, providing small but healthy meals for the children each day. Each fall, Julia Bancroft holds a Turkey Trot for grades 3-5 where students ask for donations to support this charity.

This year’s donations will total $2,000 when all the late donations are in and the loose change is counted. Over the years, JB students have raised over $10,000 to help their African counterparts, and progress is being made. Ms. Guinane described one project where a childrens’ merry go round was connected to a pump. As the children played and rotated the device, fresh water was pumped from the ground. This replaced the nearest water source, 3-4 miles away.

On one visit, Ms. Guinane gave out tennis balls (a small and packable toy) to some local children. She was in awe as one young child held the ball “like it was a piece of gold.” For the JB students, the cumulation of this project occurred during a school assembly on Tuesday afternoon. At the end, the top earners were recognized: Andrew Falcigno in first with $117 and Emily Healy in second with $100. But, the beginning was what all the children excitedly anticipated.

An unknown teacher dressed in a turkey costume led the faculty in dancing to many fun songs including the “chicken dance.” The children roared with laughter and loved seeing their teachers loosen up. On top of this event, it was also “pajama day”; so many teachers and most children were appropriately inappropriately attired. After the performance, Grade 4 teacher Melinda Barbour revealed herself as this year’s turkey, and she was given rousing applause. Principal Susan Lopez asked the students to remember the disadvantaged when giving thanks today, and she congratulated all for their efforts in making the Trot successful.

Ms. Guinane said she loves the Turkey Trot because it causes the students to “step outside and help.” In a press release, she added, “The students of Julia Bancroft have really helped to make a difference in the lives of countless children in South Africa through their compassion and hard work.”

This is another moment of pride for the Town of Auburn, the Auburn Public Schools, and Julia Bancroft Elementary. Auburn Mass Daily wishes everyone a safe holiday filled with fun, family and friends. A little turkey and pie as well.