DuBOIS — A local nonprofit organization, PA Rural Artworks, recently donated money to help a special needs classroom at Oklahoma Elementary School in the DuBois Area School District.
Gene Sutton, of PA Rural Artworks, said he moved from Indiana, Pa., to DuBois a little over four years ago and while working as a Therapeutic Support Staff (TSS) for Behavioral Advancements, he started Rural Artworks, which is an organization dedicated to empower and unite independent artists and musicians within and around the local community. It provides funding and resources for charitable events and programs seeking out assistance.
Eventually, Sutton said he met Oklahoma Elementary Principal Tammy Cook and started to work with children with autism at the school.
“I decided last fall that I wanted to do a fundraiser for a special needs classroom,” said Sutton. “I was in Mrs. (Amy) Hewitt’s class, and compared to some other classrooms, it seems like she might have been lacking a little bit. I wanted to raise some money for special needs, and so I had a fundraiser over the summer. Originally I was going to have the school district and my agency I work for it be part of it, but with COVID, it’s like, I can’t really involve them, and governor’s orders, and the size of the gatherings. We kind of played it safe, and then finally, probably June, I decided let’s go ahead and do it. So Labor Day weekend we had a fundraiser. I had live music, Gary Bickerstaff was our main guy.”
The fundraiser, held at Reynlow Park, was a family-friendly event with music, vendors and raffles for gift baskets, artwork and other items to raise money for the cause.
“I don’t know if I can put words to it, but I was just kind of elated that he would choose our school, and so honored that he would see a need and move forward to come up with a foundation to help the community in different ways and pick our school as one that he wanted to support,” said Cook.
Cook said she spoke with teachers, including Hewitt and Elizabeth Mohney, and the staff about what they will do with the donated money.
“They came up with a few different ideas, some of those ideas are we always have a treasure box and the students can pick from those, and those are good incentives for the students to improve behaviors,” said Cook. “We can always use clothing items, which we would utilize for not only those students, but some other students in the building. We do have a need in that classroom. So, if there’s an accident or get muddy on the playground, we don’t have what they need in our clothing closet currently, or very little, limited supply of it. We were thinking that would be something we could utilize some money towards.”
In addition, Cook said the teachers can always utilize the money toward instructional materials, such as games that reinforce the curriculum, or they use a lot of fidgets and Play-Doh, to help the students stay focused, but still moving their hands in a way that’s not distracting.
“We’ll sit down and brainstorm and talk about the best use of the money,” said Cook.
Cook said she really appreciates Sutton’s donation to the school.
“A lot of people say they’re going to do things like this, but you (Sutton) actually did it,” said Cook. “I thought just imagine if we all did what we said, or see this need and respond to it.”