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Seriously—Keep Your Chocolate.

Denene Millner of MyBrownBaby

So I just opened Lila’s homework folder and sweet Mother of God, there’s an order form for yet another fundraiser. This one for what is billed the world’s finest chocolate. Deluxe Cashew Clusters, Malted Milk Balls, and Mint Meltaways for $5 a pop—half of the cash for the school. If my kid sells five boxes, she gets an 8ft rocket balloon! Twenty boxes gets her a crazy hat! Forty boxes? Somebody takes her to lunch in a Hummer limousine!

And what do I get for my trouble? Ten boxes of mediocre chocolate, nasty emails from my fundraising-weary family members, and neighbors who get all, “Hide ya wife, hide ya kids, Lila’s selling stuff out here again” when they see me and the kid coming.

Oh, and about five extra pounds on my birthing hips.

Right.

I mean, if Michelle Obama wants to get a handle on America’s obesity problem, she should find a way to put the kabash on the endless assault of fundraising order forms shot at us parents at an alarming clip during the course of the school year. We’ve hawked hard candy and caramel popcorn, along with cheap wrapping paper and corny gift tags, for Christmas. We’ve pushed tubs of chocolate chip cookie dough for the soccer team. My dresser drawer is full of school and soccer pictures we had taken for the fundraising cause. Lila’s got the same nutty smile in all of them. Cute. But I take better pictures with my own camera. Those are free. And I can email them to family for free, too.

And don’t even get me started on the Girl Scout cookies. My cabinets are seriously overrun with Trefoils, Do-Si-Do’s and some lemon cookie sandwich thingies we bought to help out Lila’s Girl Scout troop. Every time I so much as look at them, I gain weight. And I can’t fit my grits and pancake mix and peanut butter on the shelves.

And my wallet is way too light because of all of this fundraising madness. The unnecessary poundage, the sour family members and neighbors, the cabinets teeming with sugar-filled treats and pictures no one will ever see—they’re breaking our bank. It’s the tragic dilemma of the work-at-home parents, who are devoid of a massive office-full of fellow employees willing to up $5 for bad chocolate and stale popcorn. We buy it because we have no one else to sell it to.

But I know even my friends with office jobs are sick of the hard sell, too. Because they pay their mortgage and their taxes and they figure that should be enough to make the schools run and really, we all know that it’s the parents who are being put on the stroll to pimp products we don’t believe in and that cost way more than what they’re worth anyway, and being forced to sell them is annoying. Even if it is, ultimately, for a good cause. I’m happy to speak for parents and say to the PTA, soccer associations, Girl Scouts and every other kid club/organization that insists parents shill for them: Selling that crap sucks. And promising my kid a toy I can buy in the dollar store in exchange for forcing 20 boxes of whatever on the neighbors, family and friends sucks, too. So you know.

I’ll tell you what doesn’t suck, though: creative fundraising. Recently, the art teachers at my Lila’s school got together and had all the kids create a piece of art around the same theme, then had a company frame the artwork, tag it and set it up for an art sale. Twenty five bucks and your kid’s artwork was yours; the proceeds went to the clean-up and maintenance of our outdoor classroom. I happily handed over that check. I also happily paid a gang of cash for a “fun run” in which my kids charged 25 cents per lap for every time they circled the field at their old Montessori school. They had a blast exercising. I appreciated handing over a check for a day’s worth of Field Day activities that got my kids geeked about being fit. And in the next few weeks, we’ll be supporting Mari’s parent-run school fundraising auction by purchasing a piece of her artwork and a few other cool goodies pulled together by the parents at the school—the proceeds of which go directly to the school and not some fundraising firm that pimps the kids (and us parents!) and ganks all the cash for themselves and tosses a few pennies and some dollar store prizes to the kids (and parents!) who did all the work.

Now that’s the kind of fundraising I can get behind—the kind that tugs at the emotion. That fosters and taps into our kids’ sense of creativity and artistry and thought and passion and energy. That asks us parents to dig deep for things we actually care about.

Box all that up and we’ll spend our last penny on it.

Just a suggestion.

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