Aug 30, 2011 • By

A big Box Tops bonus

When Piscataway, N.J., mom Susan Mierzejwski stepped up to announce to her local Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) that her school was the 2010 Box Tops for Education sweepstakes winner – a prize that included $50,000 in cash – words failed her. She became as choked up as she was the morning she received the email telling her that her daughter’s school had won.

“I was stunned, I just couldn’t believe it,” she recalled. “That excitement has tapered off a bit, but my enthusiasm for the Box Tops program and what it’s meant for Knollwood Elementary School hasn’t.”

Over the past 15 years, General Mills’ Box Tops for Education redemption program has raised more than $400 million for K-8 schools across the U.S.. It’s the country’s most popular cause-marketing program, engaging millions of label-clipping kids, parents, teachers and volunteers.

Box Tops themselves are little logo-like stamps on the packaging of a variety of General Mills and other consumer products. They have a redemption value of 10 cents – which can add up in a hurry when you have hundreds of participants clipping like mad on behalf of a school whose funding has been cut. On average, schools earn $732 a year in cash that can go toward supplies ranging from books to computer software to playground equipment.

Key to the program are volunteer Box Top Coordinators who run the school’s collection contests, keep track of Box Tops and submit them during the school year for cash awards.

Knollwood is using its winnings to create a computer lab and upgrade their playground equipment, according to Principal Marlene Davis.

“We wanted to invest the money so that children in the school would benefit,” Davis says. “After soliciting parents for ideas, we decided to split the winnings – with $25,000 going toward the creation of a new Tech Lab and $25,000 going toward the purchase of new playground equipment.”

Winning the sweepstakes had a huge impact on the school that’s gone beyond the bottom line, say Davis.

“We had a school assembly to celebrate our winnings, and Mrs. Mierzejwski and her family were in attendance, along with members of the Box Tops for Education program, and other members of our PTO’s executive board,” she says. “It was thrilling – students participated in decorating the school, and the days leading up to the event were buzzing with excitement. It was a great day in the life of our school and our students.”