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Flamingo fundraiser needs support of Winchester families

A flock of colorful flamingos flock at the Vinson-Owen School. The WFEE fundraiser is currently going on and you can purchase your flamingo through the evening of June 19. COURTESY PHOTO/WINCHESTER FOUNDATION FOR EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE

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Get ready. The flamingos are back!

The Winchester Foundation for Educational Excellence (WFEE) is once again holding its annual flamingo fundraiser this coming Thursday. The flamingo flocks will be stationed at every school across the town.

“It started as a teacher award,” said Maggie Vande Vrede, WFEE’s executive director, of the fundraiser. “But during the pandemic, we wanted to do something to show our teachers how much they were loved and someone came up with the idea.”

WFEE board member Mai Henderson mixes among her fellow flamingos. COURTESY PHOTO/WINCHESTER FOUNDATION FOR EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE

This is the fourth year of the fundraiser and Vande Vrede said each year has brought about a change. This year, WFEE has made it easier to purchase multiple flamingos, if families have a children in different schools or want to honor multiple educators.

“Everyone loves it, especially the elementary schools,” Vande Vrede said, of the reaction from the community. “Kids get their photos taken with the flamingos. It’s a fun tradition.”

A group of kids at the Lynch School get their photos taken with the flamingos in 2023. COURTESY PHOTO/WINCHESTER FOUNDATION FOR EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE

Vande Vrede said WFEE board members get up extra early on flamingo day — this year, June 20 — and try to get the flamingos in place at each school before a majority of staffers show up for work. She said it’s expected that the kids get excited by the flamingos, but the staff also gets excited by the colorful flocks spread across each school’s lawn.

The flamingos are one of the fundraisers for WFEE, which puts the proceeds directly back into the schools via grants. Vande Vrede said the schools received $200,000 in grants this academic year alone.

WFEE board member Beth Maher puts flamingos in place before staffers arrive at work. COURTESY PHOTO/WINCHESTER FOUNDATION FOR EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE

Vande Vrede said the flamingos usually bring in about $10,000, with the first year being the best.

“That first year during COVID we did have the best year because everyone wanted to thank and support teachers,” she said.

This year, however, Vande Vrede expected the amount might be less because the sponsor of the event pulled out.

A group of flamingos at the Muraco School in 2021. COURTESY PHOTO/WINCHESTER FOUNDATION FOR EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE

But Vande Vrede said she’s still excited by the fundraising event.

“We have a lot of fundraisers, where people write large checks,” she said, “but this one gives everyone in the community ownership because for only $20, everyone can make a big impact.”

Families can purchase a flamingo in honor of a teacher, or really any educator or staffer, in their child’s school who has effected their child/children’s lives this year. It’s $20 per flamingo or a flock of six for $100.

You can purchase a flamingo until Wednesday evening, June 19.

Adults like to get their photos taken with the flamingos, too. Here’s a group grabbing a snap with the McCall Middle School’s flock. COURTESY PHOTO/WINCHESTER FOUNDATION FOR EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE

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