Imagine asking tennis legend John McEnroe for help perfecting your backhand. Imagine sitting down to brunch with Chevy Chase and Beverly D’angelo, stars of National Lampoon’s Vacation, or getting on a plane to Paris Fashion Week, with a ticket to Stella McCartney’s show in your pocket.
Thanks to the seventh annual Chevy Chase GREEN School auction, online bidders can nab a once-in-a-lifetime holiday gift— and support environmental education at the same time.
The auction will benefit the GREEN Community Schools Initiative (GCSI), a joint effort of the MGR Foundation and Jayni Chase, Chevy Chase’s wife. The GREEN Community Schools project aims to bring a holistic model of environmental awareness to public high schools across the country, addressing everything from the energy-efficiency of the school building to sustainable food procurement and an eco-friendly curriculum.
“It’s really about greening the entire school,” said Phil Koch, executive director of the MGR Foundation. “It’s not just about recycling, or solar panels.”
Partnerships are key to the GCSI mission, Koch says. Rather than dictating from on high, the GCSI aims to partner with schools and communities, addressing long-term concerns and connecting neighborhoods with the resources they need.
So far, the organization has worked with a high school in Chicago, and will expand to serve another high school in Minneapolis, Minn. this winter.
“Typically we see [green initiatives] happening in charter schools, suburban schools or with younger students,” said Koch. But “we wanted to target urban high schools, and work directly with the community to understand their needs.”
In Chicago, community members stressed their need for better access to nutritious food and job creation, so the MGR Foundation fought to bring better grocery options to the neighborhood and launched a summer ‘green jobs’ program for students.
The goal is “to create model green schools in cities across the country,” said Jayni Chase. Chase brings 20 years of experience in environmental education to her role at the GCSI. In 1988, she founded the Center for Environmental Education, a resource center now maintained by Antioch University New England; she has sat on the board of multiple major nonprofits, and won awards for her philanthropic efforts.
“When you green a school, everything gets better,” Chase said. “Attendance goes up, test scores go up. Right now, a lot of those kids are untethered. But when you teach environmental literacy, you teach kids that we are connected: to the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we grow and to each other.”
The GREEN Community Schools Initiative made a pledge at the Clinton Global Initiative to reach ten schools in ten cities in the next five years, Koch said.
The money from the Chevy Chase GREEN School Auction will help support the GCSI’s efforts in Chicago and Minneapolis, Koch said. Funds will both help cut personnel costs and keep the schools supplied with the tools they need: including shovels for the community garden and materials for the biodiesel unit in science class.
Over the past seven years, the Chevy Chase Auctions have raised more than $1.3 million for the Center for Environmental Education. This year’s auction, the first to benefit the GREEN Community Schools Initiative, has already raised $130,000 with one record-setting bid. The prize? A chance to meet Paul McCartney and see him perform live at the Apollo Theater on Dec. 13.
Although the chance to meet McCartney has passed, bidding on the other 19 experiences continues until Dec. 20. A trip the Galapagos with Lindblad Expeditions, two tickets to a taping of LIVE! With Regis and Kelly and a day on the set of NBC’s The Office are among the events up for grabs.
“Sustainability is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and I don’t think you’ll find a more enjoyable way to do some good than winning one of these ridiculously great experiences,” said Chevy Chase in a statement. “Beverly and I can’t wait to sit down with the highest bidder for a real Griswaldian experience, a brunch that will hopefully raise thousands for this important cause.”