Family Bingo Night raises money for cancer research, brings families together

COLLEGE PARK-WEST BOULEVARD

By ANN ELISE TAYLOR

neighborhoods@ColumbiaMissourian.com

Thursday night, April 21, Russell Boulevard Elementary School’s gym was silent as 300 students and parents waited with bated breath.

Emily Costello, a second-grader at Russell, stared intently at the bingo card sitting on the table before her.

“I-25,” Julie Duncan, the announcer standing at the front of the room called out. “N-44…O-71…”

Emily gasped and marked her card with the orange crayon in her hand.

“I only need one more,” Emily whispered.

Suddenly sound began to fill the gym. First it came from the back, near the basketball goal.

“Bingo!” a boy in a red shirt yelled out.

Then it came from the front of the room.

“Bingo!” the deeper voice of a student’s father shouted.

Soon, the gym was alive with animated cries. Children ran to the front of the room to trade their winning cards in for prizes, and excited chatter began to fill the gym.

When Duncan announced it was the end of the round, a collective groan sounded.

Though Emily’s last number wasn’t called, she wasn’t too disappointed.

“I play bingo a lot at my church,” she said. “I think it’s just fun. I haven’t won tonight yet, but Molly did.”

She pointed at her little sister, a preschooler. Molly smiled and held up a bubblegum pink pile of fabric. “It’s a princess dress,” she said, glowing.

Each year, a Relay for Life team made up of Russell Boulevard teachers puts on Family Bingo Night, where students and their parents donate money to come play the game together for an hour. The proceeds go to the American Cancer Research Foundation.

Patty Sheehan, a co-captain of the Relay for Life team and a second-grade teacher, said the event is the team’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

“We’re hoping to raise $1,000, but we’re so appreciative of anything we can get,” Sheehan said. In the six years that the team has been putting on the event, they’ve raised about $600 per year.

Sheehan said students at Russell Boulevard are personally invested in the event’s cause.

“We’ve had parents, teachers and students here have cancer,” Sheehan said. “So it’s something that really touches our kids.”

Michelle Windmoeller, the mother of Russell Boulevard fourth-grader Cora Windmoeller, said she appreciates that the event raises money for cancer research.

“Cora’s grandmother is a cancer survivor, so she knows about it,” Michelle Windmoeller said. “It also teaches the kids about giving back.”

Windmoeller said she enjoys that the event is a chance to socialize as well.

“It’s a great family event,” Windmoeller said. “I have friends here, and it’s good to see the kids and teachers. It’s just a great community event.”

The Relay for Life Team will be participating in the relay on June 10-11. Sheehan said the teachers encourage students to come and participate.

“We always say that everyone at Russell is a part of the team,” Sheehan said.

Sheehan said exposing students to charitable events teaches them an important lesson.

“I think we teach them the power of giving a little bit,” Sheehan said. “We show them that when we all work together, we can make a difference.”

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