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Laying a foundation of service

High school Key Clubs are instilling a sense of voluntarism in youths

KEARNS — The Jedi skips happily down the street, shaking the UNICEF box in her hand. "We're rattling now," says Janette Hansen, 16, after getting her first donation while trick-or-treating for UNICEF.

The fund-raiser for children with HIV/AIDS in Kenya is the first this year for the Kearns High School Key Club.

Hansen, the club's president, had already raised "a handful of change" and is hoping to raise more.

"It really makes you feel good to help someone who's less fortunate," Hansen said. "It's a chance to dress up, go out and have fun with a service project."

Today the coins and bills collected last week by about 30 students will be counted. Students also raised money on their own time and were encouraged to trick-or-treat again on Halloween.

Sophomores Ashley Berry, 15, and Jamie Underwood, 15, dressed as school spirit.

"It's fun, it goes for a good cause," said Berry, who had raised about $10 before the outing last week.

Key Club adviser MaryAnn Ferrin says the project is one they do for the International Key Club. The club also does local service projects, such as an upcoming effort to collect donations for the Indian Walk-in Center.

That project, like the trick-or-treating, is a repeat from last year, Ferrin said.

"We made blankets and crocheted baby hats. We collected food and clothes," she said of donations that totaled more than $800. "We'll do that again this year."

Key Club has been going strong at Kearns High School since it was re-chartered in 1980, after an initial 1968 charter.

It's one of 76 high school clubs in the Utah-Idaho district, said Elsa Bennett, district administrator of Utah-Idaho Key Clubs.

The district goal for the trick-or-treating project is for each of the district's estimated 2,800 students to raise $3, Bennett said. Some 4,500 clubs around the world are also participating in the project, she said.

Key Clubs are sponsored by Kiwanis International, a global volunteer organization dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time, said Norman D. Taylor, governor of the Kiwanis Utah-Idaho District.

Kiwanis also sponsors K-Kids in elementary school, Builders Clubs in junior high and middle schools, and Circle K International in colleges, he said.

Taylor said Kiwanis is hoping to instill a sense of voluntarism in youths.

"It's a way of life," Taylor said. "We think we can change the world through service."

He recalled a group of K-Kids who saw a disabled elderly man trying to rake leaves. The children ran home, got yard tools and cleaned up the man's yard.

The man tried to pay the children, but they said they couldn't accept the money because they're K-Kids, Taylor said.

Taylor said unfortunately it's hard to keep young adults interested in service.

"We're working on doing projects to retain them and it's getting better," he said.

Bennett said at the international level much work is done to track young adults and keep in touch. When Utah and Idaho Key Club members graduate, they're given a certificate and information about Kiwanis and Circle K chapters.

"They are incredible kids," she said. "The kids are busy in high school, then they go off to college. There's that period . . . when they're doing other things, getting established, and then they may go back to the Kiwanis."

For now, the students at Kearns say they're planning on continuing their voluntarism.

For Troy Sorensen, 16, Key Club is a chance to "help people who need the help." For Michelle Glaittli, 16, Key Club is an opportunity to "hang out with friends, have fun, and also have a purpose."