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Each winter, the members of Newtown High School’s Winter Guard are tasked with raising money for different aspects of the program. In January, fundraising focused on funds that would help cover the costs of rooms for the guard members and their escorts when the guard travels to Pennsylvania to participate in a regional championship event.
Each guard member was tasked with selling two boxes of chocolate bars. Each box contained 60 bars, and the bars were sold for $1 each.
Eighth grader Mia Hochstetler sold four boxes, benefiting both the award-winning indoor sport team she is a proud member of, as well as a second group of people, strangers she and others help feed once each month.
Grace McKinley is one of NHS Winter Guard’s JV coaches. She said this week she did not think other members of the Winter Guard had decided to do as much with their fundraising effort as Mia did this year.
“I think this was something she had decided to do, realizing how much you can get from this fundraiser,” said Ms McKinley, who is also, along with one sister, a former member of the guard. The third McKinley sister is a current member of the team.
Fundraisers are necessary, Ms McKinley said, because Winter Guard members have to pay for their own costumers and equipment, among other things.
“The expenses add up,” she said.
The chocolate bar fundraiser, she said, is done through a company that allows the team to keep a large percentage of the funds raised through the sales of $1 chocolate bars.
Mia sold the four boxes, with the additional sales helping her reach a second goal she set for herself: Mia wanted to add something special to one batch of lunches sent to Dorothy Day Hospitality House in Danbury through a monthly Ben’s Lighthouse program.
“I thought I would contribute to Newtown High School as well as Ben’s Lighthouse,” Mia recently told The Newtown Bee. She sold the two boxes she needed to sell for the varsity Winter Guard team — the NHS Winter Guard hosts both a middle school team, with students in grades 5-8 participating, as well as a varsity team that accepts students from eighth grade — and then expanded her market. Mia was already doing well selling candy bars at school, but it was a post on her mother’s Facebook page that upped her game.
In late January, Kelly Hochstetler posted a note on behalf of Mia on her Facebook page, where Mia explained what she was doing. She invited donations, she said, so that she could include the extended friends and family in the “‘sweet’ act of kindness at my next volunteer opportunity.”
The comments and promises of donations started rolling in. Friends and family from Long Island, N.Y., and Wisconsin all responded, as did someone from New Zealand.
Mia’s father has a PayPal account, so people were able to quickly donate funds that way.
One special donation was also received from the teacher of Mia’s younger brother, Ryan, in memory of Ryan and Mia’s late grandfather. When Jane Rossomando learned of Mia’s quest, she sent a letter to Mia and said that she was donating $100 in memory of Raymond Hoesten, Sr, a Sandy Hook resident and grandfather of Mia and Ryan (and three additional grandchildren) who died in December 2017.
“You should take great pride in this selfless gesture and know that it helps not just those less fortunate but equally important, it sets an excellent example for your brother as well as your friends, classmates, and guard-mates,” Mrs Rossomando wrote in part.
“Your mom and I lost our dads just days apart,” she wrote. In explaining her decision to donate the money in honor of Mia’s late grandfather, Mrs Rossomando recalled Mr Hoesten’s visits to her classroom when Ryan was a student.
“He was very proud of both of you,” she wrote of Mr Hoesten.
On February 19, Ben’s Lighthouse hosted its monthly Lunches With Love program. Mia and other young adults who volunteer with the program gathered early that Monday afternoon in the kitchen and undercroft of Trinity Church, where Ben’s Lighthouse programs are often presented.
Ben’s Lighthouse hosts the event on the third Monday of each month. In addition to a brief presentation, 160 bagged lunches are made to be delivered to Dorothy Day House.
Each volunteer is asked to contribute five snacks for the bagged lunch. Mia decided to use the additional money she collected to cover the cost of buying each candy bars.
“I thought it would be nice to do something nice for the people getting those lunches,” she said. “I wanted to take advantage of having all that chocolate available.”
Just over two dozen young adults were at Trinity on February 19, when chocolate bars were added to the bag lunches. While one group was in the kitchen assembling sandwiches, another was in the undercroft, writing messages to include in the bags. As sandwiches began emerging from the kitchen, Mia was invited by Program Coordinator Rebecca Cosgrove to start putting the candy bars into the bags awaiting the rest of their contents.
She was soon joined by Jennifer Lorenz, Nidhi Mukka, and Emma Wishneski and, like the fundraising effort that went into purchasing the treats for the lunches, the work was quickly done.