young students wearing SGF t shirts

A few years ago, both a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and a Booster Club existed independently within the Solomon community However, recognizing their shared missions in supporting students and staff, a decision was made to unite their strengths. Thus, in 2020, the Solomon Gorilla Foundation emerged as the result of this collaborative effort.  Ever since then, they have been working to serve the community through various fundraisers and events.

Reflecting on the merger, SGF President Kelley VanDeCreek, a former member of the PTA pre-merger, states, “When we combined, we kept some of the best things that [each group] used to do, and we try to think more outside the box of how can raise money and do things for our families to be involved at the same time.” 

An upcoming project that the foundation takes on every year is providing Solomon Gorilla t-shirts for every single student, plus staff members every other year. This year, they are excited to extend the tradition to the Early Learning Center, introducing tiny toddler t-shirts and possibly onesies for the first time. “We like to get our kids in at least one Solomon shirt. Sometimes there are new students who may not have any, and it’s nice for the little ones to match on field trips,” VanDeCreek said. They even order a few extra in case a new student joins during the middle of the year. The shirts, featuring designs tailored to both younger and older students, showcase logos of businesses that sponsor the foundation, promoting community awareness and support. VanDeCreek believes that this project can help the kids feel like they belong, and are welcomed to the community. 

Beyond apparel, SGF has contributed significantly to the community by providing new scoreboards for the football field and gymnasium. Their contributions extend to funding programs such as Gorilla Readers, providing meals for staff conferences, snacks for students on field days, and facilitating field trips. The foundation strategically selects fundraising activities that are not only fun and exciting for the community, but also foster family involvement.

Some of their most successful events in the past were Donkey Ball, Pizza Bingo, and a golf tournament. “Who doesn’t love watching somebody try to ride a donkey?” VanDeCreek laughed, “It was a lot of work, but it was so worth it. The gym was packed.” Last year, the Pizza Bingo event was combined with an elementary music concert. After the concert, parents and their children could stay and play bingo and eat pizza and snacks. “It was probably our most successful Pizza Bingo. I think it encouraged those new, young families to get to know who we are and what we do. So we are going to continue doing that,” VanDeCreek said. The foundation’s success is attributed to the community and the collective efforts of its volunteers, including staff, parents, and students. VanDeCreek notes, “We may not have a lot of members, but we have a lot of people that are willing to volunteer; staff, parents, and kids included.”

Of course, they want to encourage parents and community members not only to volunteer, but to bring ideas to meetings, and they can be discussed and voted upon. The foundation is made up of seven board members, four officers, and three school representatives. Vice President, Priscilla Abell, provides her perspective as a parent involved in the foundation. With three kids of her own attending Solomon, she joined the foundation because she wanted to be able to give students a better experience and more opportunities through the foundation’s support.

Abell emphasizes the rewards of joining the foundation. She stated, “It has given me the opportunity to work with the faculty and other parents and grow relationships with them. I also have a better understanding of what all goes into those events, like planning and funding, and have more of an idea of where the school needs extra support.” When asked why parents should consider joining, Abell passionately replied, “Knowing that you are giving more to the children in the district is so rewarding. The more volunteers we have, the more we can do for our kids. The more money we can raise, the more support we can provide. If we have more people interested, we could grow and accomplish even more.” 

Abell believes that joining the foundation enriches parents’ understanding of the school’s needs, and how the funding can help. She also notes that having more volunteers with different skill sets would allow them to be even more creative or efficient.  For those seeking more information, the Solomon Gorilla Foundation’s Facebook page and the school website serve as valuable resources. Parents are welcome to reach out to any of the officers, or join the monthly meetings, even if they just want to listen, and can bring their kids if needed. The upcoming meetings are scheduled for December 18, January 22, February 5, March 18, and April 1. 

The Solomon Gorilla Foundation continues to thrive through community support and active participation. As the foundation embarks on various initiatives, it invites parents and community members to join in its mission: enhancing the educational experience for every student, while supporting the staff and increasing community involvement.