Local non-profit hosts fund-raiser for schools

When former professional football player Hugh Millen and his wife Michele were deciding where to move once they had children, they spent a lot of time thinking about school districts.

"That was a big factor in determining where we would be living; it was huge," Hugh said. "I just feel like the strongest educational system is where you have a well-funded public school system in which the community takes a great interest."

Eventually moving to Snoqualmie Ridge, the Millen's are getting their 5-year-old son Cale ready for school this fall. They also have a 3-year-old son named Clay.

His long-time dedication and interest in education led him to say yes when approached by the Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation (SVSF) to be the keynote speaker at its fund-raising breakfast on the morning of April 28.

"Hugh is a phenomenal speaker," said breakfast chair Jo Krueger, whose husband Bill, a former Major League baseball player, has been a previous event speaker for the breakfast.

"I think you kind of feel like everybody's got to do their part," Hugh said.

A Washington state native, Hugh played football for the University of Washington in the 1980s before he was drafted into the NFL, where he played professional football for 11 years with the Los Angeles Rams, the Atlanta Falcons, the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos.

This is the fifth year for the SVSF's breakfast, previously held at Mount Si High School.

The free breakfast will feature scrambled eggs and ham, country-style potatoes, a meat-of-choice, freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee, tea and muffins. Donations are encouraged

It begins at 7:30 a.m. at the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge.

"We're thrilled that it's going to be at the Ridge and for all the community support that is rallying for this program," said SVSF president Roberta McFarland. "It should be a really a phenomenal event where the schools will be able to realize how much the community does support them."

The event, with a "high-five for our schools" theme, will feature music from the Mount Si High School jazz band, a demonstration of new technology the SVSF would like to see in the schools, select scenes from the recently-performed musical "Peter Pan," by students at Fall City Elementary School and other surprises.

"We're trying to take it to a new level that shows the SVSF is at another level," Krueger said.

Last year, the nonprofit organization raised more than $25,000 for the school district.

This year, the SVSF is hoping to far exceed those numbers and double them again the following year, said the SVSF's board of directors' director, Susan Livingston.

"We want our community to come into the community to learn about what is happening at our schools," Livingston said. "The bottom line is that state and federal funds don't provide what we want for our kids."

The SVSF was formed in 1988 as the Citizens for Better Schools with the goal of building support for schools by involving parents, students, teachers, business and community members. In 2001, the name changed to the SVSF, but the goal remained the same.

"What we're trying to do is make things equitable across the district so all kids have the best opportunities," Livingston said. "We want to make sure our kids are prepared to thrive as they leave the Valley. Strong schools really do help build a strong community."

The foundation also supports a grant program for local teachers.

"We do two things," Livingston explained. "We provide support for the schools, financial and otherwise, and we also build community support for our schools."

Chief Kanim Middle School vice principal and SVSF board member Ray Wilson said that the foundation provides invaluable contributions that help students and teachers have unique classroom experiences that might otherwise not occur.

"It undoubtedly plays a vital role for networking and communicating above and beyond." Wilson said. "It fills of void of something that goes beyond state funding."

Superintendent Joel Aune serves as the lead advisor for the foundation and 12 board members, all participating on a volunteer basis, who represent parents, teachers, district staff and Valley schools, Livingston said.

"This is a great way to get at the largest number of kids without bias," Livingston said. "When you strengthen our schools, it strengthens the community as a whole. Change is going to happen, you might as well put in your two cents. We recognize that growth is happening and it's better to respond proactively than reactively. If we can do that, we'll continue to make progress."

The Benefit Breakfast is 7:30- 9 a.m. at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge, 36005 S.E. Ridge Street in Snoqualmie. There are still a few seats available for the breakfast, which requires an RSVP. Call (425) 396-6000.

The Church on the Ridge, 35131 S.E. Douglas Street in Snoqualmie, will be offering baby-sitting services 7-9:30 a.m. for children ages 2-8, on a first-come, first-served basis for up to 21 children. There is a $10 flat fee per family. Call (425) 888-7474.

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