Sparking the flame that keeps the kettle alive
Katie Wilkinson and her Red Kettle Club mobilize students and staff at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, Ariz.
By Marlene Klotz-Collins
When 16-year-old Katie Wilkinson decided to start a Red Kettle Club at her high school in Tempe, Ariz., she couldn’t have imagined the way her peers would embrace the concept. Under her leadership and the support of her classmates and administration at Corona del Sol High School (CDS), the club has already proven an inspiring entity in serving The Salvation Army.
More than 20 students have joined the club and, on Dec. 3, multiple clubs on campus supported its bell-ringing effort.
On a cold and rainy Saturday, school Principal Brent Brown and Assistant Principal Dan Nero also stood kettles with their students. Tempe School District Superintendent Dr. Ken Baca came by with a jar filled with coins. Wilkinson and several other soloists from the premiere choir at CDS drew groups of passers-by as they caroled around the kettle. And a group of band members entertained as well for shoppers and supporters.
The students raised $1,386! “Katie, with her example and influence, has made service the ‘thing to do,’” said Tempe Corps Officer Captain Robyn Bridgeo. “Their kettle total averaged what we typically might see from up to five volunteer groups combined.”
“I love how this club has brought the school and community together to help such a wonderful organization,” Katie said. “Not only is the amount of money we raised in 10 hours awesome, but also just making the students aware of the many programs that their bell-ringing will benefit was tremendous. Most had no idea of the many meaningful ways The Salvation Army reaches out to help those in need.”
Wilkinson was invited to attend the Phoenix Advisory Board’s Christmas appreciation luncheon for donors and supporters. Though she arrived with her mother and grandmother, she was surprised to be joined by the rest of her family as well as her school principal.
The efforts of the Red Kettle Club were recognized and Katie was presented her own red kettle as founder of the first high school Red Kettle Club in America. Brown also was surprised when he was called forward to receive a red kettle for display at school.
“It has been very special to watch Katie develop the concept of a Red Kettle Club from an idea into such a successful program within our campus and community,” Brown said. “She has given and will continue to give all of us new opportunities to experience the goodness of helping others.”
Club members since have sorted and bagged toys at the Tempe Corps. And they are already looking forward to a spring collection day at school to benefit the Adult Rehabilitation Center.
Wilkinson has been invited to participate in a meeting of the Young Adult Task Force preceding the National Advisory Board meeting in San Diego in mid-January.
“Never in my 20 years with the Army have I found such a dynamic young lady,” Bridgeo said of Wilkinson.
Brown concluded, “She and her fellow officers and club members are a great source of pride to our school and district. This club will, indeed, be one of Katie’s legacies at Corona del Sol High School.”