By Joyce Hanz
A pot bellied pig ruled the school this week at David Leech Elementary.
Brinley, a three-month old kunekune mixed breed pig from Gilpin visited students in grades K-5 earlier this week to promote PIG WARS, a new fundraiser sponsored by the PTA.
Brinley was welcomed by teachers in each classroom receiving much attention and petting from the students—all while doing what Brinley does best—eating.
Brinley loves carrots, strawberries, wafer cookies and cantaloupe said owner Shera Arner, also Leechburg’s PTA president.
Brinley’s breed hails from New Zealand and kunekune means “fat and round” in the native Maori language. She is expected to top the scales at 40 lbs. when grown.
Arner said Brinley was the obvious choice to participate in the contest because Brinley’s other pig sibling, Porkchop, isn’t so friendly.
“Brinley is laid back, calm, relaxed like royalty and walks around like a princess,” Arner said. “She is everyone’s best friend.”
And Brinley doesn’t need a hall pass from her teacher to go the the bathroom.
“She is litter box trained,” Arner said.
Teachers at Leechburg commented that many of the students had never experienced a live pig up-close and personal before.
Brinley didn’t disappoint.
First-grader Peyson Johns loved his inaugural pig encounter.
“It’s cool because I love pigs, they like mud and I like mud too. She was friendly and tried to eat a pencil in the classroom,” he said.
Kindergartener Landon Horneman said he knows his way around pigs.
“She is so cute and was super soft,” Horneman said, describing his fifth encounter with a pig. “I’m pig experienced.”
Third-grader Isabella Foley was on a mission all week—asking her relatives daily for money and even urging her aunt to take a collection up on behalf of her class.
Her main motivation?
The PIG WARS winning class was awarded a doughnut party sponsored by the PTA.
“I love donuts,” Foley said. “Brinley was so cute and kept running in circles around the classroom.”
PIG WARS was scheduled to coincide with Valentine’s Day festivities that culminated with the class with the most money raised sending their teacher onto the auditorium stage to kiss Brinley.
Students in grades K-5 collected money in .25 cent increments via donations for their individual classrooms.
A daily total was recorded and the class competition was robust. The PTA Facebook page posted daily updates on classes that were in the lead.
“We wanted a friendly battle between classes,” Arner said. “This fundraiser replaces students purchasing pop or candy like they normally do doing Valentine’s to raise money.”
PIG WARS raised more than $1,300, an increase of more than $800 from previous fundraisers, which included selling lollipops and chocolate bars.
“This was a huge success,” Arner said. “We never expected this response.”
The money will go directly towards student related activities such as field trips, an annual spring dance and a fifth-grade trip to Gettysburg.
Fifth-grade teacher Michelle Groom’s class won first place and she had her pucker plan in place.
She wowed the packed auditorium of students chanting “Kiss The Pig” loudly as she made her way to the stage where Brinley waited.
“I told my kids I would wear red lipstick and look at that piggy and say “pucker up buttercup”,” Grooms said after experiencing her first ever pig kiss. “I had a blast hyping the kids up to help raise money for the PTA.”
Second and third place was awarded to Bobbi Watson’s third grade and Kathy Wilson’s first grade classes, respectively.
Kindergartener Brayden Arner sat watching his pet pig from his auditorium seat.
Brinley shares the bathroom—her preferred sleeping spot, with Brayden and his four brothers in their Gilpin home.
“I love her,” Brayden Arner said.
District administrators supported the non-traditional fundraiser and K-5 principal David Keibler acted as Brinley’s official school tour guide.
“This was a wonderful opportunity for the kids to have fun while raising money for the PTA,” Keibler said. “The PTA provides so much for the students throughout the year and this fundraiser didn’t ask anyone to buy anything. The kids were excited all week and the assembly turned out awesome.”
Arner said the PTA plans to host another PIG WARS next year.
Joyce Hanz is a freelance writer.