Ranger Strong Week offers opportunities to donate to a deserving cause


Pride. Tradition. Excellence.

The three traits that embody a Ranger will be put to the test this coming week for Ranger Strong Week. With six days packed full of volunteer and donation opportunities, spirit days, and more, Student Council Advisor and teacher Laura Stiles hopes that the week eases some of the school stress and sheds a bright light on underprivileged parts of our community.

“Ranger Strong Week is supposed to be about community, giving, and Family Promise,” Stiles said. “We tried to build a week to make it fun, make it exciting. Homecoming was a month ago; it’s time to have a little fun around here and do it for the right reason.”

And the reason is more than right.

Ranger Strong Week has been affiliated with the non-profit organization, Family Promise, for years. The overarching goal of the week is to raise as much money as possible to buy gifts and other items for families that may not be able to afford them. At the end of the week, volunteers take the donated money and buy gifts to be sold for an extremely reduced cost at the holiday store in December.

The fundraising started with FHC about twenty years ago with Adopt-A-Family; people bought gifts for Forest Hills families in need during the holidays. Adopt-A-Family eventually evolved into Family Promise, and FHC has been their main contributors ever since.

“We are their sole provider for funds for their [holiday] store,” Stiles said. “It started with us, so it’s evolved into this huge thing. We thought we’d give it the respect it deserves and make it a big week; it’s going to be awesome. I think this [week] is about 100 times more than we’ve ever done for Ranger Strong Week.”

Kicking off the week on Monday with Pajama Day, stickers, Ranger Grams, and Culver’s Night, there is an opportunity for any student to show their Ranger excellence by donating. While the goal has always been $10,000, Stiles is sticking to the theme of going above and beyond this year with a goal $2,000 above the usual.

The Ranger Grams are similar to the Flower Grams sold during Homecoming week, only these are gifts of gratitude. Anyone can purchase them to thank a friend for their greatness, congratulate someone on their amazing presentation, or say a “thank you” to a favorite teacher. The money used to purchase these will go towards the $12,000 goal. Outside of school, 10% of customers’ bills on Oct 29 at Culver’s will also contribute to the goal.

Stiles also hopes that our logo, the big “C” with the “FH,” will quickly become the symbol for Ranger Strong Week. In order to accomplish that, FHC stickers will be handed to every student on their way out of school on Oct 29.

Following the jam-packed day of Monday, Tuesday brings FHC alum and Camp Henry director, Jeff Jacobs, to speak on the importance of community. After school, seniors paint their tiles in the cafeteria, and then at 7 pm, the long-awaited dodgeball tournament will commence.

“Tuesday is [a] big [day],” Stiles said. “We’ve got the guest speaker and then dodgeball and senior tile painting. I’m going to be here until 9.”

Senior tile painting continues during the one-hour delay on Wednesday, and once school officially starts, the Halloween costume contest begins. Each first-hour class will choose winners, and those names are brought down to the auditorium when every teacher who has a first-hour prep will choose the ultimate winners. Prizes will be offered for the scariest, funniest, and most unique costumes.

Along with the Halloween costume contest, any student who has Potts, Stiles, Fisher, or Steensma will learn the “Thriller” dance in preparation for a “Thriller” flash mob at Friday’s assembly.

“There’s going to be over 600 people that learned ‘Thriller’ on Wednesday,” Stiles said, “and the idea is [that] on Friday they all come down [to] the floor, and we all [dance]. If you have [Potts, Fisher, Steensma, or me], you’re in.”

While the spirit days change each day, class buckets for donations are constant. The buckets are set up at tables during lunch for anyone to donate their spare change or dollars. Student Council set up a class competition with the buckets; whichever class puts the most money in the bucket wins Yesterdog or pizza for lunch one day. While Student Council understands that the simple act of giving is enough reason to donate, a little class competition only raises the incentive to let go of a couple quarters jingling in jean pockets.

Senior Tess Bond, Student Council President, has been continually emphasizing the act of giving for a good cause.  

“I’m really hoping that people will donate just because it’s a good cause, and that’s something I’ve been trying to get the word out about,” Tess said. “It’s not just giving money, and you don’t get to really see the action or anything happen. Everyone that donates has a chance to get involved and help with the holiday store [and] kind of help be the change. That’s something I’ve really been trying to emphasize is just the fact that it’s a good cause and that you’re directly helping [families] because the only funding is coming from FHC.”

After four days of donations and fun activities, Friday concludes the school week with an assembly, which includes a final dodgeball game and results from the Family Promise class competition. Stiles is also trying to formulate another idea for class competition during the assembly. She originally thought that a watermelon-eating competition would suffice, but problems arose with that.

“We’re trying to come up with a class competition,” Stiles said. “[We] wanted to do watermelon eating, but we can’t find watermelons. I tried to find a watermelon last night [and couldn’t]. So right now we’re thinking about something with pumpkins.”

With the idea of pumpkins on the list for Friday, Saturday contains an abundance of out-of-school volunteer opportunities to contribute to the goal for Family Promise. From 10 am to 12 pm, the cafeteria will hold Kids Food Basket. Sign-ups are in the office this week for making trail mix for families. Decorating the St. Vincent De Paul store for the holidays is also on Saturday’s agenda, along with the .1k race in downtown Grand Rapids.

While each day has its fun activities planned, the main goal of the week is $12,000 for the holiday store. Tess is hopeful that the goal is reached through students showcasing their Ranger pride and excellence.

“I’m really hoping that we can reach our goal of $12,000,” Tess said. “I think my overall hope is that everyone gets involved in the fun activities that we have planned and that people donate and know that when they are donating, it’s going to an amazing cause.”

By the end of the week when the money is collected, volunteers are sent to various stores to purchase toys for all age groups, toiletries for families, and small household items with that money. In December, all the items that were purchased are brought to a church downtown where the holiday store is set up. Every originally priced item is sold for as low as ten cents so anyone can purchase the various items.

“An original thirty dollar toaster [is sold] for 10 cents,” Tess said. “The family gets that essence that they are providing it, which is a lot different compared to Adopt-A-Family where strangers are giving it to them. They feel like they earned it and are providing their family with something and are not just being given something. I think that’s a cool aspect of this whole holiday store.”

Looking back on three years of Student Council involvement, Tess can confidently say that the actual day of the holiday store is the most gratifying experience.

And the holiday store cannot be successful unless donations are given, whether it be one cent or twenty dollars.

“It’s just really awesome and really gratifying helping someone and knowing that your entire school is responsible for all of these great things that are happening,” Tess said. “It’s really, really cool and eye-opening, and I can’t say enough about it. It’s just amazing.”

Family Promise Volunteer Coordinator Chelsea Jandernoa is a key component in helping the holiday store and all the events beforehand running smoothly.

Back in January of 2017, Chelsea started volunteering for Family Promise in order to help families in need. By June of this year, she became the Volunteer Coordinator, which Tess described as “the organizer [and] coordinator [that] connects FHC and Family Promise as an organization.”

Chelsea got to experience her first Ranger Strong Week last year and was amazed by everyone’s involvement for a good cause. The close connection between our school and Family Promise helped make an entire holiday store possible, which was a beautiful thing for Chelsea to witness.

“I was absolutely blown away by the dedication of the student council and their ability to pump up the whole school and raise 10,000 [dollars] in just one week,” Chelsea said. “That is truly an amazing accomplishment. The partnership with FHC and Family Promise of [Grand Rapids] has made our families’ [holiday] store a reality. It’s a truly beautiful thing to be a part of, watching a high school team up together to make Christmas for families in their community possible.”

Chelsea believes that giving back to your community is infinitely important, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin.

“I know when I was in [high school], I felt passionate about helping others but paralyzed because I didn’t know how to help or where to start,” Chelsea said. “Homelessness affects more than 3,000 students in Kent County. It’s important that students in our community know this, and I think when fellow students learn this fact, they often feel the desire to help. FHC’s partnership with Family Promise and the [holiday] store gives students that opportunity to help.”

As both a student and avid member of Student Council, Tess has been able to see first-hand how much power the simple act of giving has. The happiness that erupts from all parties involved, whether it be the givers or the receivers, is an incomparable experience to Tess.

“I feel like in Forest Hills we’re kind of in this bubble, but there are literally people in Grand Rapids that struggle to have a home and all that stuff,” Tess said. “Being able to help people in situations like that is just, I don’t even know, it’s so amazing and opens my eyes. You’re seeing these real people with real problems, and you’re helping them have this amazing holiday season. They’re happy because they get to do this for their family, too. Everyone is winning, and it’s just an awesome experience.”

Ranger Strong Week is an opportunity for any Ranger to give back to our community and help families in need. With spirit days, “Thriller” dances, and a plethora of donation opportunities, Ranger Pride, Tradition, and Excellence will be showcased in all aspects of the week.

[Ranger Strong Week] is the chance for us to do good,” Tess said, “and I think everyone should take this opportunity whether it be volunteering for Kids Food Basket, [or] just bringing your spare change and donating it. Every little thing makes a difference. I think that’s kind of what being a Ranger is all about; it’s just being kind and helpful. It’s really about giving back to the community that we’re so lucky to live in.”