DELAVAN — He’s known for having perhaps the brightest smile in Green Bay Packers history.
On Wednesday, June 1, Donald Driver brought his bright smile to Wileman Elementary and made the school’s 240 students show their smiles after talking with them and answering about 20 wide-ranging questions from students.
His favorite board game is Scrabble. He learned to run fast in his youth while trying to avoid occasional spankings from his mom. Playoff losses were always the fault of quarterbacks Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers (he was kidding, of course). Winning the Super Bowl was his most amazing career achievement. He appeared on Dancing With The Stars partly because the show’s producers picked him, but also because women love guys who can dance.
“Guys, listen to me. If you can dance, you win,” he said to laughter. “Women love men who can dance. So, they chose me and I realized that the more I dance, the more I get to hug my wife, so that’s awesome.”
Driver came to Wileman after the school won this past April’s Goodwill Industries Pack’er Up Donation Challenge.
It was the second time in three years the four-time Pro Bowler visited Delavan as part of the contest, which has Goodwill patrons donating in a participating school’s name.
Wileman Elementary School dominated this year’s donation-giving event with a record-breaking 176,673 items donated. Second place was a distant 50,281 items. The 2016 effort collected more than 1.5 million items for Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin.
“Thank you for what you have done in this community. Thank you for what you have done all together,” Driver said. “You think about (the giving totals) last year you guys have shattered the expectations of what the Pack’er Up Challenge is all about.”
Wileman’s donation total broke the previous high-mark, which was also set by a Delavan school.
In 2014, Driver came to Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and School after students and families donated a then-record 106,893 pieces toward that school’s challenge.
“You get 100,000 and you’re like, ‘there is no way that any school is going to beat that.’ Guess who did? You guys,” Donald said to applause. “Ya’ll didn’t just break the record. You shattered the record. What that tells me is this is an amazing, amazing community, because you saw a purpose. Not just to get me here — but that was a good thing to do — but what it shows is the community comes together and changes people’s lives. You had a mission that you wanted to accomplish and you did it.”
Driver complimented the kids, parents, teachers, community and Goodwill staff for their work in achieving their goal.
“This doesn’t end,” he said. “I want to come back next year. Can ya’ll make it a two-peat? But that means you got your hands full. Somebody’s going to try and out-do you guys with your 176,000 and some change.”
Wileman received tremendous help and coordination of collecting items from the school’s Parent Advisory Council.
“This event would not have been possible without the help and support of many key people who truly went above and beyond to make our school the winner,” said Principal Becky Schneider. She specifically thanked PAC members Chris and Leslie Pelnar for spearheading the event.
At planning meetings, the couple would always say, “when we win, not if we win,” Schneider said. “This shows you the true dedication we had with wanting to win this challenge.”
“We were in it to win it, and through hard work and community involvement, we were able to achieve it,” said Leslie Pelnar.
Delavan Mayor Mel Nieuwenhuis was thrilled to speak at this year’s event after missing Driver’s visit to Our Redeemer because of a work incident.
The tremendous giving effort “is representative of what our community is all about,” Nieuwenhuis said. “I’ve been mayor for 14 years. When a family needs help, the community rallies behind them. Goodwill is a part of that. We are a great community with good people who help one another.”
Superintendent Robert Crist told the students that Driver is a role model for everyone.
“The humanitarian efforts he is involved in speaks greatly of the character of this great gentleman,” Crist said of Driver. “He’s great in many, many ways. Hopefully, we can all, including myself, try to emulate his great contributions to humanity, at least a little bit.”
Second and third place schools in the challenge were Park Lawn Elementary in Oconomowoc and Ben Franklin Elementary in Menomonee Falls.
Dousman Transport Company, Delavan-Darien’s bus provider, also helped the cause by accepting and storing items that would be going to Goodwill. Dousman collected so many donated items that they filled two full buses and made the huge delivery prior to the April 30 deadline.
Driver flew in from Texas for the special occasion and gave the school an autographed Packers helmet and a dozen signed copies of his “Quickie” series children’s books. Signed copies went to the families who helped volunteer in coordinating the event and giving up their own time to help at Goodwill.
Driver autographed many other items, which the school and district can use for fundraisers and raffle prizes. His hour-plus long visit also included countless selfies and photos with each class and Wileman teacher.
About Wileman Elementary School
Wileman Elementary, located on Delavan’s east side, is a school of about 240 students from preschool through grade 5. The mission of the Delavan-Darien School District, a partnership of students, families, staff and community, is to ensure each student is prepared to succeed and contribute as a 21st century citizen by providing a real-world education that is engaging, thought-provoking, and culturally diverse.
About Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin
Goodwill’s mission is to provide training, employment and supportive services for people with disabilities or disadvantages who seek greater independence. Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin, Inc. is the largest Goodwill organization among 164 agencies in North America. In 2015, Goodwill provided services for nearly 70,000 men and women with disabilities and disadvantages.
MORE INFO: Visit: http://www.amazinggoodwill.com/packer-up