While academics are certainly an important part of school, developing good character qualities are also important. One Pekin grade school is doing just that.

Students at Scott Altman Primary School are participating in their sixth annual Laps for Life campaign. It is a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital regional program started by Washington, Ill., Police Chief Mike McCoy after he wanted children to be able to actively participate in helping patients at St. Jude. Altman School picked up on the program after one of their own students was a St. Jude patient.

Halle Bloom was in kindergarten at the time the school first did Laps for Life. That year, the school raised $3,500 to donate. As of Thursday morning, it has raised $4,237.22 for this year’s fundraiser. Over the last six years, they have raised more than $22,500. 

St. Jude Marketing Director Mollie Shepherdson said the money that Altman School donates will be used to ensure families do not pay for treatment, travel, housing or food. 

“They’re really helping to take away that stress for families,” she said.

Shepherdson was a speaker when Altman School Principal Lynn Brown kicked off the annual fundraiser with an all-school assembly on April 1. Shepherdson told the students that last year alone $5,400,000 was raised through the St. Jude Runs, which concludes with the annual St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Telethon on Aug. 3.

Brown visited classrooms after the assembly and brainstormed ideas on how to raise money knowing that not all parents would be able to write a check to contribute. Ideas the students came up with included lemonade stands, doing extra chores, donating birthday money, asking relatives and neighbors for pledges, and asking parents to take a sign-up sheet to their workplace to ask for pledges. 

Their 40 days of fundraising will conclude Friday with the culminating activity of an obstacle course and a card making session. An hour will be set aside Friday afternoon for all students, regardless of whether they raised money, to run through the obstacle course set up on the black-top and the grassy field. The students will have 30 minutes each to complete the course. Part of the obstacle course includes jumping rope, running, crawling through a tunnel, and hopping in and out of hula hoops. 

Guest DJs will play music, cheer them on and periodically talk about what St. Jude does for patients and their families. The DJs will also be participants in the upcoming St. Jude Pekin to Peoria Run. Family members of the students are welcome to visit to cheer on their student but will need to check-in at the office first.

The remaining 30 minutes will be spent in the students’ classrooms creating cards for St. Jude patients. The cards are meant to brighten the day of a child who is going through treatment.

“Everyone can help,” said Brown. “Everyone will participate by running even if they did not raise money, and everyone can make a card. We’ve all pledged to encourage each other, and that doesn’t cost anything.”

Laps for Life also ties in with the school’s mission statement: “Scott Altman School exists to produce active, responsible learners who successfully meet grade level standards in all academic areas while also developing good character qualities.” 

Brown said developing empathy and good character qualities are points she and teachers at the school strive to make each day. 

“Laps for Life is a great way for kids to help kids,” she said.

Donations are still welcome. Anyone wishing to make a donation may write a check made out to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and mail to Scott Altman Primary School at 1730 Highwood Ave. in Pekin.