Awesome. Spectacular. Amazing.

Three words used to describe the grand finale of this year's COW Week [Changing Our World] at Grove High School.

By the time the confetti was being swept up, it was revealed the effort - which unites school and community efforts behind a local non-profit - raised $32,150.17 for the Delaware County Children's Advocacy Network [DCCSAN].

Initially students thought the total stood at $31,925. Then a final donation raised through a coin drive at Grove's Early Childhood Center pushed the total beyond $32,000.

Since program began in 2017, the effort organized by members of the Grove High School student council, has raised almost $39,000 for three area non-profits.

Braden Wadley, who was one of the students who helped kick off the effort three years ago, said raising funds for DCCSAN and the three projects, provided the "best way to go out" for this year's senior class and those who helped get the program started.

"We exceeded our goal," Wadley said. "It was amazing. It definitely exceeded my expectations."

Wadley, who first began as a member of the team, and then later served as the vice chairman, served as the chairman for this year's event.

He said the effort, which is designed to encourage student and community participation, has taught him a lot about giving, without receiving anything in return.

It has also helped him develop leadership skills, which he hopes to continue to propel him in to the future as a member of the the President's Leadership Council at the University of Oklahoma.

"It's opened my eyes a lot, and it's changed me into a leader," Wadley said.

Wadley said he is proud of this fellow students, as well as the community members, who helped make this year's record total possible. 

"COW Week is all done by kids," Wadley said. "We have Mrs. [Donetta] Kerr, but she lets us make all of the decisions. This is our work.

"This effort is more about what you do for others. It's definitely service above self."

As a senior, Wadley hopes next year's COW Week team continues to build upon the foundation of the last three years.

"I hope they keep going with the same heart and drive," Wadley said. "Hopefully we've installed enough in them the last two years to keep having a good heart."

Next year's leaders include Cole Buchholtz, who will serve as the chairman, and Abby Kreutz, serving as the vice chairman. The "little cow," or leader in training, has not been picked. It is traditionally filled by an underclassman.

Wadley said beyond the events, his favorite part of COW Week comes through the relationships built among team members. 

"It's brought some excitement back to the high school," Wadley said. "It switches up the norm. It lets kids know they can get involved and help."

Buchholtz echoes Wadley's assessment with the effort.

"It's amazing to be able to do this for an non-profit, to add to their services, to help them keep providing for students who really need it," Buchholtz said. 

Like Wadley, working on COW Week has helped Buchholtz learn to talk with others, including community leaders, about joining the effort.

"As an individual, it forced me to communicate with people I normally wouldn't speak with," Buchholtz said. "It forced me to speak in front of the school and create skills that I will use the rest of my life." 

As next year's chairman, Buchholtz hopes to continue successful events, like the Donkey Basketball and the Dare Assembly.

He also hopes to try a few things new, in order to get more students and community members involved.

"I would like to push the message out to smaller people in neighborhoods or individuals, including community groups," Buchholtz said. "Especially those who are not involved in Rotary and the business sponsors."

He would like to see others involved in sponsoring events, and hopes to expand events to include other non-profits.

This year the team added a dog show, which not only promoted COW Week, but helped the Second Chance Pet Rescue of Grand Lake.

Buchholtz would also like to "bridge out" to other schools within the region, to help them start their own philanthropy week, because it would give other charities a chance to be apart of similar efforts.

"I want people to know we are still very new," Buchholtz said. "We only have three years under our belts. We strive for opinions and ideas on how we can spread the word to as many people as possible."

Bobby Kreutz, Grove High School assistant principal, said Grove High School has been enhanced because of COW Week.

"The culture at the high school is extremely positive," Kreutz said. "Our student council helps make this all possible.

"All of the students love COW Week. My hope is to have our students continue to see how they can be part of something bigger than themselves and continue to help such worthy causes in our community such as DCCSAN, the Grove Backpack program and Petra's Closet.

"The big question is, who is going to be next."

DCCSAN Reaction

The funds raised through COW Week are ear-marked for three projects at DCCSAN: at least two years of the Brave packs, obtaining a trained therapy dog, and the development of a camp for child abuse survivors.

Jill McAbee, DCCSAN director, said she was blown away by the students work.

"I had no doubt they would do very well, but I was amazed when those numbers dropped and I saw the total," McAbee said. "These kids never stopped working towards their goal."

McAbee said Charlie, the center's new therapy dog, has started his training at the office. 

"I've already seen kids respond to her," McAbee said. "She's helping kids already."

The additional resources, she said, including the Brave packs and the camp, will provide more resources for healing students.

"Without COW Week, these things would just be on a wish list," McAbee said. "Without the Grove Student Council, the three projects would not have happened."

Matt Henderson, co-chairman for the DCCSAN board of directors, said it was incredible to see what the students accomplished during COW Week.

He said the students' excitement, as well as the community's support, has sparked a sense of pure excitement within the organization's board of directors.

"This means a lot to us," Henderson said. "Every dollar raised will go to help children in need. This is a great feeling."

He is grateful the Brave pack program will be expanded to a new level.

"Every child who comes to DCCSAN will get one," Henderson said. "To be able to do more with that, and provide resources is exciting.

"It's truly incredible to think our community and Grove Public School students came together for this, and were able to raise this kind of money."

Josh Bishop, the co-chairman of the board of directors, agreed.

"I'm very appreciative of the students and their hard work," Bishop said. "I am very grateful they chose DCCSAN as the recipient of the proceeds."

Bishop said he's excited to see how the camp grows from an idea, into a project designed to help survivors of abuse.

"This will be a big step in continuing the healing process and expanding the support system for victims," Bishop said. "The proceeds of COW Week are going to allow DCCSAN to impact the lives of many more children in Delaware County."

Jeff Dozier, past chairman and current board member for DCCSAN, said he was "blown away" by the efforts of the COW Week students.

"They worked hard to organize and implement all the different activities," Dozier said. "We are grateful. They should take pride in knowing that many children of Delaware County will benefit from this generous gift."