RANDOM LAKE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Students at Random Lake Middle School got a big lesson in helping others this year. The student council organized a walk-a-thon to raise money for children fleeing the war in Ukraine. They surprised even themselves with how successful it turned out to be.
"Molly, hurry up! Molly," a group of girls from the student council walking around the school track call to their friend.
The last week of school is a good time to reflect on the accomplishments of the year, and the Random Lake Middle School student council has a lot to be proud of. When asked what their favorite event of the year was, they quickly answer in unison.
"The walk, definitely walking! Yeah," they said, standing on the track where the walk was held in April.
That day they got their whole school out on the track, and a lot of other people joined them, too.
"Oh, there was the entire middle school out there. We had some elementary schoolers. We even had some high school classes come out there just to walk," said 7th grader Reed Traas.
Sarah Mitchell remembered the weather.
"It was cold. It was really cold, it was like 40 degrees," she said.
But the chilly temperatures didn't stop them from their goal.
"I walked around 15 miles that day," Traas said. "Oh, my legs were really dead after that."
Each step raised money to help children being impacted by the war in Ukraine. The community of Random Lake stepped up in a big way.
"We ended up raising $17,005.37," 7th grader Lena Schoenefeld said with pride.
So how did a group of middle schoolers in Random Lake, Wisconsin come up with the idea to help other kids a world away?
"It was really important for all of us because we saw how much destruction there was," Schoenefeld said.
"Being in 7th grade, the kids are very aware of what's going on in the world," teacher Laurie Biermann said of her perceptive students.
Seeing the images coming out of Ukraine inspired the students to organize the walk.
"We started calling the businesses and we started getting the money, and then we gave other students pledge forms," Schoenefeld said.
Traas said cold calling businesses wasn't easy at first, but they got the hang of it.
"At the beginning of this year, I wouldn't have called anybody on the phone to ask them for money, but now I would do it any time I wanted to," he said with a smile.
They all agreed Mitchell showed them how it was done.
"She was our best caller. She could charm anyone," Schoenefeld said.
Biermann never doubted her students could pull it off.
"If you give them good things to do, they will shine," she said.
Biermann teaches 7th and 8th grade social studies and science. She's also a student council advisor.
"I always try to teach the kids that to be a good leader, you first have to learn to be a servant, and I really wanted them to understand the power that they could have," she explained.
That's a lesson that is taught all year long at the school. The kids organized penny wars to raise money for an injured classmate. They held food drives, painted rocks for veterans, and many more projects.
"The feeling of helping others does help yourself," said 10th grader Raegan Laumann.
It's a Random Lake tradition, and one Laumann carried on to high school. When she was a middle schooler, she volunteered to work with senior citizens at Gables on the Pond, and now she works there.
"To help these people is just an incredible feeling and it's something I'll take with me for the rest of my life," Laumann said.
As for the $17,000 they raised for Ukraine, it's being dispersed to women and children by a friary in Poland. The students got a video message with a sign that says, "We Love Random Lake."
"It was a whole new thing to me because they know what we did, they know who we are. And we're just helping them keep going," Schoenefeld said.
That's a life lesson not found in a textbook.
"I think it empowers them. I think for them to see the good that they can do. It's just infectious," Biermann said.