The "Wildcat Chase" exceeded all expectations for Westside Elementary's PTO and "was great exercise for all of us," said one parent volunteer at Tuesday's assembly celebrating the fundraiser.
But it was Principal Ed Drew who got as much exercise as anyone, as he wrangled a very nervous Belle the mule.
Belle visited the school gym - well, the west foyer - as Drew made good on his pledge to "kiss a donkey" if the kids reached their goal of $4,000 for the inaugural Wildcat Chase.
The total was $9,883, so before all the students, staff and parents, Drew led in his mule (yes, he owns Belle) and kissed her.
The enthusiastic children cheered when Belle entered, and teacher Tom Dalbey had to ask them to quiet down. Belle was still too nervous to make it past the entryway, so that's where Drew applied the smooches. And he gamely did it several times.
Drew expressed pride in what the school had done.
"First of all, the PTO is fabulous - all the ways they work on behalf of the school," said Drew, who will be back at Westside next year. "It's the first time we've done this and we started small to see how it would go. It really exceeded expectations."
Last week's Wildcat Chase was "an amazing outing," said parent Barbara McDonnell, who organized with fellow parent Adrienne Davies.
"Staff really got involved and we had all these parents come out to help the kids, and in many cases run along with them," McDonnell said.
"It was neat because the kids all encouraged each other," Davies said. As classes took turns on the course, other students would be out for recess, and they urged each other on.
Students, staff and parents gathered pledges and ran 3,570 laps, or 892.5 miles.
Top pledge gatherer was fifth-grader Peter Koenig with $335, followed by Teddy Parkinson ($318), Reed Bauer ($272) and Aiden Haynie ($240).
The top class was Robin Cushman's second-graders, with $1,094. Anne Gehrig's fifth-graders earned $971, Debbie Eaves' third-graders collected $740 and Paula Lindquist's first-graders collected $668.
Travis Running, fifth grade, and Robbie Running, fourth, did the most laps among boys, with 15 and 14, respectively. Top girls were Makena Zorza and Erin Sutherland with 13 each.
Wildcat Chase funds will go to general enrichment activities such as assemblies, artists in residence and health projects.
"It will supplement the losses for the budget cuts. There will be less available next year," McDonnell said.
To the best of Ed Drew's recollection, this marks the first time he has appeared on page A1 of the Hood River News.
For the record, normally when a principal kisses a pig or other livestock as reward to students, the farm animal is a stranger to the principal, one brought in from some local farm (the animal, not the educator) and presented for the ritual buss.
In this case, Belle was trailered to and guided into the gym by Drew, who is the mule's owner. Drew has been a teacher, coach and administrator for 37 years in Hood River County School District.
Drew acknowledged a certain "advantage" over, say, Parkdale's Kim Vogel, who kissed a pig last month, given that he already knows, and has probably already kissed, the mule in question. Yet, he reasoned, "the kids didn't know that."