Local fundraiser raises money for student education

The 12th annual Stuff the Bus fundraiser began Thursday. Local radio show host Tony Rose started the event and lives in a school bus for the duration of the event which raises school supplies for students. Rebekah Alvey/WKU Herald 

Rebekah Alvey

Three bright yellow school buses arrived outside Bluegrass cellular Thursday morning. By Friday morning, two of them were almost full with school supplies.

Thursday was the first day of the 12th annual Stuff the Bus event which raises school supplies and money for grade school students in 10 surrounding counties. The fundraiser was initiated and led by local radio show host Tony Rose.

Rather than filling a container or simply gathering supplies, Rose promises to live in a bus for the duration of the event and asks the community to fill the buses until he can’t live in one anymore.

Don Ritter, president of the Warren County retired teacher association, came out with other members of the association to show their support for Stuff the Bus. Ritter said it benefits communities by providing supplies for students that usually don’t have one while also saving teachers from paying for supplies out of pocket.

The fundraiser will last until Monday morning however Rose said it is a year long project. The Stuff the Bus 5k on Jun. 17 was the first event and was followed by a “kickoff tour” where Rose went to the 10 counties raising awareness and going to their smaller fundraising events.

Rose said the counties will have their own events like filling a van or storage bin. Stuff the Bus will match the supplies raised and send them back to the county.

Every year Rose said the amount raised has grown yearly and expects nothing different this year. In 2016, Stuff the Bus gathered 16 tons of school supplies and Rose is anticipating at least that much but is hoping for more.

In addition to school supplies, Stuff the Bus also raises money for two $1000 scholarships to WKU for a child or grandchild of a current or retired bus driver from one of the 10 counties represented.

The scholarships were started by Rose and the College Heights Foundation in 2015. On Sunday this year’s recipients will be at Stuff the Bus to formally receive the scholarship.

While sitting on a bench in one of the buses filled halfway with boxes of supplies, radio equipment and cups of coffee, Rose explained why he does this year to year.

The first year, Rose said he doubted his decision to live on the bus where there was no air or electricity. A family approached the bus to talk with Rose and one of the girls was fascinated with the colors and large amounts of supplies.

The girl was autistic and the family came to Stuff the Bus because she insisted on seeing the “guy on the bus.” A little while later, Rose said the family came back carrying bags of supplies.

The girl had been saving up for a bike, but after seeing Rose and the bus she decided to spend her savings, a couple hundred dollars, on supplies to donate. 

“Every year we see this, kids making this their first act of charity,” Rose said. “So when it’s hot or we are getting burned out, things like that get us through it.”

While most fundraisers involve matters children can’t relate to, Rose said children can easily grasp the concept of Stuff the Bus because it is something they see at school.

Michelle Miller, who has volunteered with Stuff the Bus for seven years, said the concept of generosity continued on Thursday when a 12-year-old girl came in and donated all the money she had received for her birthday.

“It’s kids helping kids,” Rose said.

After the event ends and the team of volunteers has time to take full inventory, they will visit the 10 counties and hand deliver the supplies. Miller has been through the experience many times and said it is always humbling.

“It’s definitely a tearful moment,” Miller said. “Knowing you did something for these kids.”

Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].