• June 13, 2019

    Students learn resilience & compassion in Baker’s Yo-Yo Club

    Yo-Yo Club On the surface, Baker Elementary’s All Wound Up Yo-Yo Club sounds like a quirky, fun club for fourth graders. Scratch beneath the surface and you soon learn that it’s a whole lot more.

    First established by teacher Erik Wiesemann in 2012, the Yo-Yo Club meets once a week for five weeks. It’s so popular among fourth graders – with 55 participants – that three different sessions run simultaneously. This spring the different groups met after school on Mondays and before school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

    “The club actually started because one of my students received a yo-yo as a gift and asked me what I could do with it. I borrowed it for a weekend, learned some tricks, and came back ready to teach the student,” Mr. Wiesemann said.

    Student interest in learning to use a yo-yo was instant.

    “There was a lot of additional interest once the children saw the tricks,” Mr. Wiesemann said. “It occurred to me that this would be a great opportunity for the children to make some new friends while helping others in need.”

    In addition to learning impressive yo-yo tricks, the club is great way for student to make new friends.

    Yo-Yo Club “The children interact with peers with whom they may not normally associate. I have seen wonderful friendships develop out of the club,” Mr. Wiesemann said. “It doesn't matter if the children excel in academics or athletics, learning the yo-yo puts everyone on the same level.”

    Another important lesson that comes out of the club is resilience. Sometimes learning a new trick or new skill doesn’t come easily.

    “The children may fail at performing a trick 50 times before getting it once,” Mr. Wiesemann added. “We address and deal with the difficulties together and we encourage each other.” 

    In addition to learning the how to’s of yo-yoing, the All Wound Up Yo-Yo Club also has a goal of helping others both locally and globally.

    “The children in Upper St. Clair are so blessed, and there are very few opportunities for elementary school children to help others,” Mr. Wiesemann said. “The club allows them to have fun, while making a difference in the lives of those in need.”

    The club hosts an annual coin drive that typically generates between $1,500 and $3,000. The YoYoFactory, which supplies the club’s yo-yos at cost, donates a prize basket full of trick books, yo-yos, strings, stickers and more for the classroom that donates the most money during the coin drive.

    This year the coin drive raised a record $4,179.50. Additionally, each student pays $25 for the five-week session. All monies from the coin drive and registration are distributed to the designated charities. 

    This year's financial recipients included Save the Children and the One Acre Fund, which were selected as a way to help people on a global level.

    “It's great for the children to realize that there is a whole world outside of Pittsburgh. The rest of the organizations help those in Pittsburgh,” Mr. Wiesemann said.

    This year’s local beneficiaries included:

    The Braddock Free Store, which provides an opportunity for people to shop for free for needed items including clothing, home items, food and other necessities all at no cost, and Feed Our Students, which offers weekend meals to students who might not otherwise eat. In addition to a monetary contribution, students spent an afternoon packing food items for distribution through Feed Our Students.

    “This group certainly resonated with the students, as they couldn't imagine not having a meal, snacks, etc. whenever they wanted,” Mr. Wiesemann said. “We actually did a ‘pack’ for Feed Our Students. The students worked in an assembly line to put together the bagged lunches that will feed students in need.” 

    In total, the Baker students packed 400 bags that were distributed by Feed Our Students staff to students at three area elementary and middle schools.

    The final local organization that was supported by the Yo-Yo Club this year was Blankets Over Pittsburgh, which provide blankets, tents, sleeping bags, socks, underwear, handwarmers and other necessary supplies to the homeless population in Pittsburgh. This organization goes out where individuals with the greatest needs are located. 

    “I have actually been helping the Blankets Over Pittsburgh organization for the last six months. During that time, I realized a need that was not being met...the need for light,” Mr. Wiesemann said. “That is when I started the Light in my City organization. When it gets dark at night, the homeless can't see what they're eating, can't read, or even have a face-to-face conversation with a friend. The lack of light can also be dangerous. Light in my City provides hand-crank/solar LED lanterns with AM/FM/Weatherband radios. Our goal is to provide light, dignity and safety to Pittsburgh's homeless population.

    Learn more about Light in my City at lightinmycity.org.

    Other nonprofits that have been supported by the All Wound Up Yo-Yo Club in previous years include World Vision, South East Asia Prayer Center for medicine for a medical mission in Laos; Beverly's Birthdays; the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, which included a monetary donation and a half ton of non-perishable food items; Operation Second Chance to support veterans in need; The Children's Institute; Make A Wish; Variety Children's Charity to provide an adaptive bicycle for special needs student; Food for the Poor to feed 15 children for a year; FOCUS Pittsburgh to provide weekend meals for 50 children, and the Easther Children’s Home to sponsor two years of education for a Nepali girl, including room, board, tuition, books and meals.