Crane students reveal the amount of money raised for disaster relief efforts. (Teresa Pietsch)

There is always a lot of commotion and excitement before Crane Country Day School’s daily assembly begins, but the enthusiasm level on this Monday morning was significantly louder, busier and more animated than usual.

The Crane students who filled Cate Hall on Monday, May 7, had waited a long time to hear some news — good news, they hoped — about their recent Respond-A-Thon benefit efforts.

More than a month ago, these students had asked friends, relatives and even strangers to sponsor them in Crane’s school-wide jog-a-thon (Crane’s Respond-A-Thon and Spirit Day).

The students hoped to raise funds to benefit many of the organizations that had provided vital services to the community during and in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire and Jan. 9 debris flow.

Then, on March 23, the day after returning from another mandatory evacuation and the day before spring break was to begin, Crane students took their marks, got set and, when the confetti rocket blasted, went! They ran and ran, circling the basketball courts and parking lot in lieu of the soggy fields.

And now, they were eagerly waiting to hear the results of all that running.

Hayward Kwit, Crane’s service learning teacher, called seven students to the Cate Hall stage. Each held a large placard, but faced away from the audience.  The sound of a drum roll began, then one by one, the students on stage turned around to face forward:  3 – 9 – 2 – comma – 5 – 3 – $

It took a moment for the students and faculty to register the figure: Their Respond-A-Thon had raised $35,293. Gasps gave way to resounding applause, punctuated by hoots and screams, as the young crowd understood their accomplishment.

The beneficiaries of the Crane fundraiser are: Santa Barbara County Animal Services, the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade, Direct Relief International, Santa Barbara Country Search and Rescue, and The Unity Shoppe.

One anonymous donor had offered to match up to $10,000 in support of the Crane students’ efforts. The students themselves had collected $25,293, which combined with the $10,000 matching gift amounted to $35,293.

What’s more, those students from each grade who either ran the greatest number of laps or had the greatest number of sponsors will be given the opportunity to donate their prize — a portion of the total funds earned — to the service organization of their choosing.

(The same anonymous donor made yet another $10,000 available for those prizes.)

After the cheering had subsided and a few other announcements had been made, Kwit again took the microphone for one last statement:

“This Respond-A-Thon is proof of how much we can accomplish when we all work together,” he said. “And given how hard you all worked to make the Respond-A-Thon a success, everyone gets to enjoy an extra five minutes of recess today.”

With this, the clapping, hooting and screaming began again.

For more information about Crane, call 969-7732 or visit

—Elizabeth Karlsberg for Crane Country Day School.