‘Helping Hands’ event back for encore

A water balloon explodes as Woodland Regional High School student Matthew Luxeder tried to catch it during the ‘Helping Hands’ event last year hosted by the school’s DECA chapter. –CONTRIBUTED

BEACON FALLS — Woodland Regional High School’s DECA chapter organized its first “Helping Hands” event last year as way to help a local family and assist the fledgling club to establish itself at the school. The second installment of the event promises to be bigger and better.

“The people who did it (last year) wanted to do it again and they told their friends it was fun. So, the word got around,” said Shannon Pruzinsky, a senior and DECA vice president.

The event is a competition to see who can keep their hand on a school bus the longest. The last person with their hand on the bus wins.

“No bathroom breaks, but you get all the water you could possibly drink,” Woodland teacher and DECA co-adviser Christopher Tomlin said.

The event is June 9 at Woodland and starts at 9 a.m. The competition is open to all students in Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. The registration fee is $15 and includes a T-shirt and bottled water. The deadline to register is June 1. Registration forms are available at all Region 16 schools.

There will be live music and mini games during the event. Prizes will be awarded to the winners of the mini games as well as the overall winner. Last year’s winner, Woodland student Megen Sirowich, kept her hand on the bus for nearly six hours.

The event is about more than fun and games. Last year, it raised $1,027 to help a Prospect family.

This year, Woodland senior and DECA President Eliza Smith said the money raised will be donated to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center for sarcoma research in memory of Justin DaSilva.

DaSilva, a former Woodland student, died last October after a battle with cancer. He was a junior at the time of his death.

“He was so liked and so involved,” said Woodland teacher and DECA co-adviser Jenna Broadbent about DaSilva. “(His death) affected a lot of kids and a lot of teachers. He made a big impact on a lot of people’s lives.”

Smith, Pruzinsky and DECA treasurer Kristen Persico, a senior, know the ins and outs of the event. They helped run it last year and submitted the event in the community service project category at DECA’s State Career Development Conference in March.

The three had to write a 30-page essay on the event and give a presentation on it at the conference. The trio won first place in the category, earning a trip to compete at the DECA International Career Development Conference in Atlanta, Ga. in April.

The event wasn’t designed to win an award, but the experience at both conferences showed Smith, Pruzinsky and Persico what needed to be worked on to improve the event.

This year, Persico said they’ve worked on advertising the event more in schools and the community. Also, she added, they’ve developed some new mini games to play and ironed out the agenda for the day to help it run smoother.

As the seniors prepare to graduate in June, they said their hope is the event continues for years to come and grows.

“Ask anyone who came last year, they’ll tell you how great it was,” Pruzinsky said.