When the Harold S. Winograd Elementary PTO planned its Family Fun Night last spring, the group was trying to create a true community-builder. They wanted an event that would draw in a large percentage of the school’s diverse families. By bringing people to the school for a fun event, PTO leaders reasoned, they would feel more comfortable coming at other times.

Because many parents have limited means, the group elected to make the event free. Because the school boundaries span 10 miles and many parents have transportation issues, the PTO hired a bus to pick up and drop off families. Because of the diversity of families served by the school, the group wanted to hold an array of activities to attract the widest possible audience. And to make the event even more appealing, they decided to serve a burrito dinner—also free.

And they pulled it off for less than $200.

“The event was like an open house, with folks going where they wanted,” says PTO President David Haining. “The burritos were served in the kitchen, and folks could eat them in the cafeteria. The gym was opened up for families to shoot baskets, play with kickballs, jump rope, etc. The music room was transformed into a karaoke room. The art room was transformed into a bingo room.” One hallway had a face-painting station, and an empty classroom was transformed into a puzzle room. Three or four other rooms hosted various types of games, including a very popular cakewalk—a musical chairs game in which one person wins a cupcake.

Although nobody tracked attendance, the group served more than 500 burritos. “The feedback we received was that the attendees very much appreciated the event. The parents also appeared to recognize that this event was sponsored by the PTO,” Haining says.

Food and beverages were donated by local businesses. A grant was secured to pay for the bus. The first 100 children to arrive received a goody bag courtesy of Family Fun magazine through PTO Today’s Fun & Games Night program. And a drawing was held for backpacks donated by Washington Mutual bank.

“Having free transportation was a big help in getting folks from neighborhoods across the city,” Haining says. “We believe many of the families would not have been able to attend if the bus was not available.”

Group at a Glance

Name: Harold S. Winograd Elementary PTO
Location: Greeley, Colo.
Community: population 87,000; urban
School Size: 254 students
Grades: preK-5
Annual Budget: $7,000