My car was accosted by a walking mattress on the corner of Red Bank and Crown Point this Saturday.
Yeah, there’s one sentence I never thought I’d type. Then again, I never thought a tall, lanky mattress with arms and legs would run upto my silver Beetle and try to convince me to check out the sale going on at WDHS.
After approaching my car, this particular mattress identified himself as Jack Baldwin, a senior baritone player for the award-winning West Deptford High School marching band. He and his bandmates—who skipped the box spring costumes but were waving hand-made posters—attempted to urge oncoming traffic to make a pit stop at the high school cafeteria, where the mattress sale was taking place.
Unfortunately, my budget doesn’t allow for a new mattress (even though my back was buying everything Baldwin said). But seeing those kids’ earnest attempt to raise money for uniforms reminded me that—along with the falling leaves, the football games and the homework hour after dinner—there’s yet another sign that summer is truly gone. Fundraising season is in full force.
Indian guides are pushing baked goods outside the grocery store, football players are selling discount cards door-to-door, and mattresses are stopping traffic, all in the effort to make some money toward their favorite activity.
I’m not sure why fundraising seems to stop during the summer months. Perhaps it’s because so many of us head to the shore or other vacation hot spots. Or maybe it’s because we spend all our money at warm weather yard sales, or are too self-conscious in our shorts and bathing suits to buy a box of M&M’s, even if it is for charity.
Whatever the reason, our scheduled activities return every fall, and with them come the raffle tickets, the candy sales and the silent auctions that keep our pursuits in the black.
My first memory of fundraising was of the old-fashioned, door-to-door variety. When I was in first grade, the classes at St. Pat’s sold Studio greeting cards to our neighbors. Dressed in our plaid uniforms and woolen green knee socks (no costumes for us!), we’d knock on all the doors of the houses nearby and ask the unsuspecting person answering to buy a box of birthday or all-occasion cards right there on the spot. I think the cards sold for the princely sum of $2.50 a box, and I don’t remember having a lot of success selling them.
A more successful fundraising effort at St. Pat’s was our efforts to buy pagan babies. We would save some of our allowance, skip a soft pretzel at snack time or check under the sofa cushions for loose change, all so that we could donate the pennies, nickels and dimes toward the purchase of a heathen child in a far-off land. Pagan babies went for $5 at the time, and I remember each grade would compete with the others to see what class could purchase the most.
Once a class raised the money, we could name “our” child. In the earlier grades, we always chose names from the Bible, or names of saints—David, Joan, or Christopher (these were in the days before old St. Chris was demoted to mere mortaldom).
But as we got older, our name choices became trendier. I remember one whole year—fourth grade, I believe—when we attempted to name all our pagan babies after characters from Bewitched. (Yeah, I know, I’m old.) “Tabitha” was easy—it’s in the Bible!—and we convinced our teacher “Samantha” was Biblical too, the female derivative of Samuel. But “Darren” was a hard sell, and the teacher nixed the idea of “Doctor Bombay” outright. In fact, I think she decided to name the babies herself from that point on.
Of course, the most successful fundraiser I’ve been a part of is selling Girl Scout cookies. They seemed to have cornered that market, so I wouldn’t even suggest another organization trying that. (Yeah, those Brownies look cute, but I pity the fool who tries to infringe on their Thin Mint sales.)
Through the years, I’ve also sold popcorn, wrapping paper, cupcakes, raffle
tickets, Easter flowers and Cinnabons—all proceeds going to one good cause or another.
Despite how annoying fundraising efforts can be, I kind of admire the idea that we’re all in this together, that our spare change can add up to something meaningful for someone else. It’s sort of old-fashioned and homespun, in that Little-Rascals-Hey-Let’s-Put-On-A-Show way. So even though I can’t afford a new mattress, I reached into my pocket for a donation. If my loose change can get that walking mattress to his next cavalcade, count me in.