I was so far from feeling the spirit of the holidays. Then the note came from Nate Barilich. It led me to Learning Together, a wonderful preschool in Southeast Raleigh where, for an hour, I was Mr. Bob to the children. It also led me to Enloe High School's charity ball, a showcase for the promise of youth.
The ball's climax was a moment of drama. Each year, the Enloe Student Council raises money for—and Enloe students work with—a selected nonprofit serving the Southeast Raleigh community. This year the council chose Learning Together, an "inclusion preschool" that teaches kids with special needs in the same classrooms as, well, other kids. The ball, at Marbles Museum, culminated the fundraising drive. Tickets were $30–$50; 1,200 were sold.
So Marbles was packed, and the noise was joyous. But the question remained whether the council, through ticket sales and other efforts, had reached its announced fundraising goal of $100,000. That's not a typo. The council raised $92,000 last year for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, but even so, a six-figure fundraising target for high-school students? I found that extraordinary. And the last I'd heard, they were short.
Then Emma O'Brien, council vice president, took the microphone. "Our relationship with Learning Together will continue to grow and develop," O'Brien said. Marbles fell silent. Behind her, Barilich, an English teacher and council adviser, held a giant check covered in paper.
"I was truly inspired by every staff member, teacher and child at Learning Together," O'Brien continued. "I was inspired by all of you," a nod to the Enloe students who've helped at Learning Together after school.
"And now, the moment you've all been waiting for. I'm honored to present the check to Learning Together for $118,000 ..."
Marbles exploded. Enloe had done it.