Bench Elementary receives $500 for the arts

2011-11-08T14:56:00Z 2014-08-25T15:23:09Z Bench Elementary receives $500 for the artsBy CHELSEA KROTZER Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
November 08, 2011 2:56 pm  • 

About 200 wide-eyed fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at Bench Elementary School sat in disbelief when they found out their school received a $500 check for art programs.

Some covered their mouth in shock while others applauded with excitement after they saw one of Billings' own Big Sky All Star Little League baseball players had taken the time to present the check to their principal.

The team made it to the Little League World Series U.S. championship game this summer in Williamsport, Pa.

"This is thanks for all the support," player Ben Askelson said. "It's a way to give back to the community. You guys have supported us well."

The check was donated by Bess Fredlund and Leslie Blair of the Education Foundation, which put on the second annual Celebrity Challenge during Saturday Live in September.

Ben, along with seven other Little League players, represented eight schools as the celebrities.

The challenge, similar to the television show "Minute to Win it" pits contestants against each other where they must complete different tasks in less than 60 seconds.

One of the challenges involved having the contestants' hands behind their back as they tried to pick up four different-sized paper bags.

The lowest bag was a mere 3 inches high.

"We had to bite them and pick them up," Ben said. "No one could get the last one. It was bad — people almost hurt themselves trying."

After knocking over bottles with a pair of pantyhose over his head and shaking ping-pong balls out of a Kleenex box by shaking his hips, Ben won the title for Bench Elementary, the school he represented in the competition.

"They were great — it wasn't about athletics, it was about fun," Blair said. "They were scored on their willingness to compete, sportsmanship and style — and he had a lot of personality."

Fredlund, a dancer, and Blair, a musician, both wanted their $500 donation to go toward the arts — a subject that at schools nationwide has fallen by the wayside.

"They have all sorts of programs now that are getting cut in schools — especially in the arts," Fredlund said. "They have all sorts of training programs for teachers and students trying to raise their SAT and test scores, but every once and awhile, learning should be fun.

Bench Elementary Principal Sandie Mammenga agrees. She, too, is a strong supporter of the arts, and said she is excited to put the donation to good use.

Mammenga hasn't decided exactly what type of program the school will use it for, but said some options were bringing in an artist or exposing children to specific art forms.

"The arts are extremely important — children need exposure to different types of what our society and our culture has to offer them, and art is one of those things," Mammenga said. "Arts encompass everything from music to theater to painting and so the more exposure our children have to that, the more well rounded the child is."



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