School gets $20,000 when students’ grandmother wins contest

Youngsters at Emerson Elementary School in Seymour will enjoy an enhanced playground thanks to the grandmother of two students.

The school recently received a check for $20,000 from the national Box Top for Education program after Donna Lampkin of Seymour entered an online contest in the fall. Two of her grandchildren, kindergartner Gavin Lampkin and third-grader Laney Lampkin, attend Emerson.

At first, school officials were skeptical when they were notified in December that Lampkin had won the money.

“We had never heard about this kind of contest before, and $20,000 is a lot of money, so we were kind of like, ‘Well, we’ll believe it when the check comes in,’” Emerson Principal Julie Kelly said.

But even when the check arrived this month, they still weren’t sure if it was real until they deposited it, and it cleared with no problems.

A formal presentation of the money will take place at tonight’s school board meeting.

Kelly said the money will be used to buy playground equipment.

“I wanted to do something that all the kids could enjoy,” Kelly said. “Our secretary, Mrs. (Sonja) Guffey, suggested new playground equipment, and I thought that sounded great because kindergarten through fifth grade will get to use it, and it will last a long time.”

Since it was Lampkin’s initiative that earned the school the money, Kelly said, she wants Gavin and Laney to be involved in how the money is spent.

“We’re going to have the playground company come in and work with them to come up with some design options for the new equipment,” Kelly said.

Then, a schoolwide vote will be taken on which option to go with, she said.

Box Tops for Education is a longstanding fundraiser for Emerson and many other area schools. But Kelly said she can’t remember a school winning so much money at one time.

On average, Kelly said Emerson’s parent-teacher organization receives $1,000 to $2,000 a year from the program.

That money is spent by the PTO to bring in special convocations for the students and to buy T-shirts at the end of the year for the annual field day event.

The program involves cutting the Box Top labels off everyday products, such as Hanes apparel, Betty Crocker baking products, General Mills cereals, Hamburger Helper, frozen foods, snacks and juice.

“It’s basically cash for trash because, after you use the product, you throw the packaging away,” Kelly said.

Box tops can be taken to participating schools, which send them in. Each box top is worth 10 cents.

“It doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up fast,” Kelly said. “Box Tops is a real successful fundraiser for us. It’s something we can count on.”

Lampkin said she collects the labels regularly for the school and entered the online contest to help her grandchildren.

“I wanted the kids to feel special,” she said.

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For a list of products accepted by the Box Tops For Education program, visit