March 6, 2003
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Joe Fugate, above, and Ashanta Robinson took pies to the face in a fundraiser for the Katz-Stein family.

Mills Lawn students take pie in face for fundraising event

Mills Lawn sixth-grader Ashanta Robinson always wanted to take a pie in the face. And she knows how it feels to have a sick parent. So when the Mills Lawn Student Council, of which she’s president, sought a way to raise money for Zac Katz-Stein’s dad, she volunteered as target for a projectile pie.

Ashanta wasn’t the only one who ended up with a nose full of Reddi-Wip whipped cream. Her fellow Student Council officer Joe Fugate also got pied two weeks ago at a fundraiser for the Katz-Stein family.

“I think we did the right thing,” Joe said about the event, which netted $90 for the Katz-Stein family.

They also did a fun thing, and the event featured fifth and sixth graders standing on tables in the school’s cafeteria, “whooping and hollering,” Mills Lawn Principal Christine Hatton said, as Tyler Fox and Zac Castle, who drew winning tickets, aimed their tinfoil pie plates at Ashanta and Joe, and let ’em rip.

“It was cold,” Joe said, afterwards.

“It was kind of scary,” said Ashanta.

It was inspiring, said Dan Katz-Stein, who is battling cancer, when he learned of the event.

“They took something that they cared about and they took action,” he said. “That’s touching.”

Most surprising, he said, is that his children, Zac, now a student at the McKinney School, and Hana, a student at the Antioch School, never attended Mills Lawn. But he coached Joe Fugate one year in soccer, and his son and Joe have played soccer together for years.

“They knew my kids through sports and just because we’re all a part of the community,” he said. “It blew me away.”

Also, what goes around, comes around. According to Hatton, Katz-Stein volunteered his time several years ago to install more than 60 computers at the school. After she told the students of his gift of time and skill, they wanted to give something back.

“This is our thank you,” said Ashanta.

The fundraiser idea began about six weeks ago when the Student Council, seeking a project, read in the Yellow Springs News about Katz-Stein’s illness. First diagnosed with a brain tumor about seven years ago, he underwent two major brain surgeries and seemed to have put his illness behind him. But this fall a new tumor was discovered. Katz-Stein and his wife, Abi, traveled in December to Boston for a third surgery, which removed the tumor. However, the surgery was followed in January by a brain abscess, which required another trip to Boston and another surgery.

Currently, Katz-Stein said, he’s finishing off a round of antibiotics to fight the infection, and then will probably begin chemotherapy.

The Katz-Stein kids’ situation held personal meaning for Ashanta, whose mother, Jessie Wenzler, died of cancer two years ago.

“I’ve been in that situation,” she said. “I would have liked it if someone did something like this.”

Student Council members didn’t expect their plan to catch fire, but it did. For 5 cents, students could buy a vote for the Council member they wanted to pie. Ashanta and Joe lobbied for votes — they wanted to get pied — and watched in amazement as their peers brought in $10 or $20 bills to buy votes for their favorite. Mostly, though, the $90 grew from nickels, said Hatton, who explained that a Mills Lawn lunch costs $1.85, so many students donated their change for votes.

Hatton offered to provide a pie target, too, if the kids raised $200. But, she said, she didn’t tell the teachers of her offer, for fear they’d quickly raise the amount.

When all the votes came in, Ashanta and Joe tied for the honor of taking the pie. So on the day of the event last month, they each wore a cardboard covering that protected their clothes but not their faces. Tyler Fox and Zach Castle won the draw for the honor of throwing the pies — actually, just Reddi-Wip in a tinfoil plate.

“There was only one try,” Ashanta said. “Nobody missed.”

It was cold and a bit scary, but they got to lick the pie pans. Now they’re thinking about making the pie throw an annual event.

“It was fun,” said Ashanta. “I’d do it again.”


—Diane Chiddister