By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Bright orange signs were displayed on stage at Norman North High School Monday. SPUD co-chairs and the executive committee could barely contain themselves as they flipped the signs so they went from reading “SPUD is Love” to “$165,161.87.”
Cheers and laughter filled the high school gym as tears ran down students’ and SPUD recipients’ cheeks.
SPUD stands for “Students Performing Unselfish Deeds.”
Students described the effort to raise money for families in the community as an impactful week of selflessness that brings the entire student body together.
Ashleigh Isaac, Alexis Vance and Lauren Kaufmann served as SPUD co-chairs. Issac said the group was so emotional when the grand total was revealed because they didn’t know how much money was raised until the rest of the student body did.
“I had no idea until we flipped the signs,” she said. “We’re so happy to have raised $15,000 more than last year. This has really been a great experience.”
Norman North didn’t have a set goal this year but dedicated efforts to raising money for three families and one organization, Center for Children and Families Inc.
Harry and Jennifer O’Daniel are the parents to four children: Taylor O’Daniel, Cameron O’Daniel, Kaylynne O’Daniel and Darci O’Daniel. Darci is the youngest. She was born with Mosaic Down Syndrome. This rare form of Down Syndrome accounts for less than 5 percent of Down Syndrome cases.
In Mosaic Down Syndrome, the individual has two cell lines, one with a normal number of chromosomes and one with an extra chromosome. Darci is currently part of a genetic study at the University of Virginia.
The next SPUD recipient is Jennifer Toperzer, an instructional coach at Jefferson Elementary who helps teachers improve their teaching. She is married to Max Toperzer. On Aug. 2, Jennifer was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
“I am overwhelmed, humbled and so proud of these kids,” she said after hearing how much SPUD Week had raised.
The last family to receive help from SPUD funds is the Pittman family. Jean and EH Pittman have been married almost 10 years and have two children, Izzabele and Logan Pittman. EH is a veteran who served in Afghanistan.
When the May tornadoes hit last year, EH was working part-time at a 7-Eleven. He was paralyzed from the waist down and suffered two punctured lungs.
The last recipient, CCFI, offers strength-based programs and services to aide and educate families coping with abuse, neglect, divorce, separation, teenage pregnancy, a lack of quality out-of-school care or other adverse experiences.
“We all took part in an amazing week that was life-changing for our recipients, as well as our own lives,” Kaufmann said.
The money raised will be divided among the families and CCFI, based on need.
To arrive at the high $160,000-plus total, Norman North worked on the fundraiser all year long, beginning last May.
Since 2001, Norman North SPUD fundraisers have raised more than $750,000 to support students and families in the community. This week, students had various assemblies and restaurant nights to raise funds.
SPUD Royalty raised more than $60,000. This committee works all year on planning their own events to raise money for SPUD Week. Juniors Alex Mcmillan and Mackie Stoops were named king and queen, respectively, for raising more money than any other Norman North students.
Students, clubs and organizations joined the fundraising efforts as well, including SWAT, $125; Newspaper, $500; DECA, $800; Native American Club, $349; Key Club, $412; Teen Volunteers, $350; Multicultural, $380; Softball, $170; Spanish Club, $150; Mu Alpha Theta, $127; Rotary, $314.75; GSA, $100; and National Honors Society $115.
During the closing ceremonies, Cutter Elliot performed “Cowboy Rides Away,” and the Norman mixed choir sang “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”
Issac said the “Lion King” was chosen as SPUD’s theme because the song “Hakuna Matata” means no worries, which is exactly how students want the fund recipients to feel.
“’Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ really represents all the love we hope the school was able to show through its fundraising efforts,” Issac said.
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