Community rallies to fund Birney Elementary field trip

education icon with silhouette of teach in front of class, holding a baton to a board.

by Rebecca Gaunt

Birney Elementary School fifth graders have a big field trip coming up, but when finances became a concern for some of the students, the community stepped in to help.

The trip to Columbus, Georgia includes a bus tour and walkabout at Wild Animal Safari and a visit to the Coca-Cola Space Science Center. 29 students needed assistance with the $114 per person cost of the trip.

Heather Tolley-Bauer, a founder of the parent-run financial watchdog group Watching the Funds–Cobb, and her husband Craig, made the decision to personally sponsor five students. 

On Wednesday, Tolley-Bauer shared the school’s Facebook post on the Watching the Funds Facebook page, which has 2,500 followers, hoping it might garner some extra attention. The response exceeded her expectations and even brought tears to her eyes.

One follower, Patty Farthing, reached out to the school for details on how the public could best get funds into the right hands, which the page also passed along.

Tolley-Bauer reflected that as a kid, she might have been one of the students who couldn’t afford to go. She couldn’t stand the thought of anyone missing out.

She said, “The way our followers rallied around it was really amazing. We just wanted to get the word out that the school was looking for support and using our platform is a good way to do that. People are paying attention and are engaged in their community. They want the best for all the kids.”

She also disagreed with some comments criticizing the district for not paying the cost.

“The district cannot underwrite every field trip. But it’s easier for some schools to bridge that gap than others,” she said. “If our PTAs and foundations weren’t having to pay for other things, it might be able to cover those costs.”

The school posted about the successful fundraiser on its Facebook page on Thursday.

“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of the Cobb community. At this time, we believe all 5th graders will be able to attend the end of year field trip. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!”

Becky Sayler, the Post 2 school board representative who oversees the area that includes Birney, wrote, “Loved seeing the community come together on this!”

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.