Tess Bond and Maddy Williams organize a winter carnival to benefit the Down Syndrome Association


Imagine the FHC gym. But instead of flying basketballs sinking into hoops, the gym is packed with elementary school kids running around and trying to win carnival games. Instead of energy drinks and granola bars, smells of pop bottles and cotton candy diffuse through space. Content parents smile knowing that every dollar they paid is going to a good cause.

With this vision in mind, juniors Tess Bond and Maddy Williams set off to accomplish it. In an extremely short timeframe, Tess and Maddy organized an entire winter carnival. The silver lining of their exciting project is every cent of the money raised goes to the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan.

“I hope it will have a pretty big impact,” Maddy said. “I think it’s a pretty cool thing that we can get so many kids of different ages, because we have high-schoolers and elementary kids, all together in one place to raise a lot of money and have a large impact.”

On the guest list are K-4 students from Ada Elementary, Pine Ridge Elementary, and Thornapple Elementary. Additionally, children with Down Syndrome and their families who are a part of the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan have been invited to the mix. With a diverse blend of students attending, their event is on track to become fun for all involved.

“When we came up with the idea, we knew that we just wanted to do something to bring a ton of people together,” Maddy said. “I coach tennis for Buddy-Up, which is a program that the Down Syndrome Association is a part of. We kind of thought about doing something with them and got in contact. We came up with an idea to put all the funds to them and adding another aspect of incorporating the kids.”

Dedicated high school volunteers will be running the games in the FHC gymnasium and allowing the kids to have a great time. Events such as pop toss and other carnival games will be accompanied by novelties such as popcorn and cotton candy. One volunteer is junior Kara Bolger.

“I am super excited to get involved and help raise money for kids with Down Syndrome,” Kara said. “I think that the carnival will help us come together as a community and bring more awareness to the organization that we’re raising money for. I will be running one of the carnival games, and I’m looking forward to helping out, seeing all the kids, and raising money.”

Although it’s part of a greater cause to benefit people living with Down Syndrome, this project will be submitted as Maddy and Tess’ DECA project. DECA is a business competition involving projects or roleplay that students submit to advance to state and national competitions. Since participating in DECA her freshman year, Maddy’s interest in business has only grown, and this project is one of the hardest she has tackled so far.

“Going into [DECA], I think we weren’t really sure what to expect,” Maddy said. “I don’t necessarily want to go into business, but it’s really good at improving skills like communication and other stuff like that. [For this project], we’re competing in the community service chapter of DECA. We have a written project we have to produce after it explaining everything that we did. This event is just the start of our project.”

Though the event was concocted because of the DECA project, the idea really took off when Tess and Maddy realized the potential for good behind it. What started with a project for regionals has turned into an event that could inspire change.

“I just hope to positively benefit everyone involved and really get our community closer,” Tess said. “That’s why I think incorporating all different age groups is a really positive thing. I think I’m really excited to see how it all turns out and the impact that we can make on so many people.”

Judging by the amount of work and organization put into the carnival, one would not expect the biggest challenge that Maddy and Tess faced. With only a few weeks to organize the entire event, they faced roadblock after roadblock to arrange every aspect.

“We’ve had a very short time frame to put this all together,” Maddy said. “So, I think it’ll be really cool to see how everything comes together in a really short amount of time. It’s a lot of stress because we want so many people to be a part of it, so it’s a lot to coordinate with different people and get the word out in such a short amount of time.”

Using multiple hard deadlines and a master calendar to keep track of their organization, Tess and Maddy were able to overcome the difficulties associated with their short time frame. In the past week, they have promoted the event around FHC and the elementary schools through visits, NHS, and flyers. Hopefully, their hard work will translate into a good turnout at the event this weekend.

With hundreds of kids invited, the carnival games ready to go, and volunteers who are passionate about helping the community, Tess and Maddy are set to have a very successful carnival. Because of their determination and passion, the Down Syndrome of West Michigan will be receiving a sizeable donation to benefit dozens in the near future.

“I’m excited to partake in something that’s really awesome and cool,” Tess said, “[and especially] getting to see all these kids having fun. It’s impactful for every person involved, whether it be moms who are working a game or kids who are playing it and just knowing that it goes towards a really good cause.”