Students at Pine Point School have hit the ground running with a pay-it-forward effort.

The 62 kindergarten through eighth-graders received a life lesson on how even giving a little can do a lot when working together.

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They launched a campaign to raise money for the Marshmallow Foundation, which cares for and adopts out stray dogs and cats in Becker County.

They convinced people throughout the Pine Point community to sponsor them for a 5-K fun run that took place at the school Wednesday.

They also roped in some willing businesses to help with raffle donations.

“When the kids started selling raffle tickets, the money started flying in,” said Cindy Johnson, who is, among many things, the librarian, bus driver and coordinator of the event.

“The kids have been so proud and so excited. When they get on the bus in the morning, right away they’ve got pennies and quarters to give me,” she said.

The students assembled in the gym Wednesday to present a check to a representative from the Marshmallow Foundation for $892.

“They’re amazing kids,” said Marshmallow Foundation Executive Director Cheryl Hubbard. “I’m so proud of all of them, and the money they raised will help a lot of dogs and cats with food, cleaning supplies to keep the kennels clean and vaccinations.”

Students may have been huffing, puffing and sweating during Wednesday’s 5-K (which was held inside the school hallways due to rain) but the real work was done before that day.

“I would ask people to sponsor me, and they’d give me like a dollar and sometimes more,” said Linda Diaz, the Pine Point fourth-grader who raised the most money - $160.

“I love animals - I love their animalities,”she smiled.

“I think my daughter is a little go-getter,” laughed Linda’s mother, Neegonee Brunner, who is a teacher at the school and who also helped organize the event.

Brunner says her daughter had a purpose, and she went for it full speed.

“After school she wanted me to drive her door to door, so that’s what we did - she just hit up everybody,” said Brunner.

This isn’t the first time the Pine Point students have done this sort of thing.

In November they raised $600 for the Headwaters Animal Shelter in Park Rapids.

Johnson says she is impressed by what the students could accomplish and what they learned throughout the process, including how to properly care for animals and how even they, as children, can make a difference in the world.

“This is one of the very poorest school districts in the state,” she said. “Doing something like this just gives them such self-confidence.”

Pine Point students are hoping students from other schools will take a note from their lesson book.

“They’re issuing a challenge to other schools in the area to do the same thing - to do some sort of pay-it-forward,” said Johnson. “It doesn’t matter how much or little you have, you can always help someone else; it doesn’t matter how much you help, even a little thing can be a life-changer.”

This won’t be the last time the Pine Point students rally for a cause, either. Johnson says they’ll be doing it again, but the next time it will likely be for something not animal-related.

“We’re having the kids come up with some ideas and do some research - I know we have one little girl who wants to save the llamas,” she laughed, adding that the real point of all this is to instill in the students a sense that they have the ability to make change in the world.

“These kids have worked hard and made a huge difference,” said Johnson. “Let’s all make a difference.”

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