They held the anchovies but not much else as several hundred hungry Vineyarders sold out the seventh annual Pizza Night at the Tisbury School last Friday night to benefit the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.
A little more than an hour into the two-hour event, the last of more than 100 pizzas prepared by school teachers and staff had been munched or ordered by students, family and hospital well-wishers. The event has become a fall institution on the Island, according to senorita Oly Wirtz, school Spanish teacher and multilingual hostess at the door.
Initiated by third-grade teacher Weit Bacheller in 2000, the event was picked up after Ms. Bacheller’s retirement in 2003 by Anne Williamson, current third grade teacher.
“It’s a collaborative event involving students, teachers and staff,” Ms. Williamson said while multi-tasking at the raffle table where her students were busily selling chances for raffle items and toys donated by teachers. “We generally raise two to three thousand a year for a specific piece of equipment the hospital tells us it needs,” she said.
The school works with Rachel Vanderhoop, director of development for the hospital, to identify specific needs from hospital staff. Last year, the school donated a warmer to the pediatric unit. This year, a medication pump is under discussion as a gift.
“It’s good to donate something specific, that the kids can see and know how it’s used,” said Joan Rice, a school counselor, as she prepared pizza doughs for the oven.
Jenna Sylvia, a seventh grader, was busily running pizzas to the oven for baking, her face painted with a peace symbol by volunteer face painters outside the busy cafeteria. Michael Ovios, as he has for eight years, manned the six-unit oven. An industrial arts teacher at the school for 32 years, Mr. Ovios got high grades from Jenna. “He’s good [at baking] and he’s a good teacher too,” she said.
Down the line, second grade teacher Alison Smith was expertly cutting and boxing pizzas while glancing further down the line where her son Conor Smith, 13 and Andrew Fournier, 10, were handling desserts, cupcakes and cookies. Conor, a seventh grader, was chocking up community service at pizza night. “We have to complete 15 hours of community service for graduation. And this is a great way to spend a Friday night,” he said with Andrew nodding assent while passing out drinks to fellow students.
In all, the hospital giving program at the Tisbury school has raised $15,000 from events such as Pizza Night and Cap Day on which students donate a dollar, this year to wear Red Sox hats during school. Cap wearing is otherwise a no-no during school. The program also includes coin jars in every classroom with the legend Every Cent Counts. Students are accountable for collecting jars and counting the coins regularly, Ms. Williamson said.
Pizza Night has attracted help from Island businesses as well, including Offshore Ale, Edgartown Pizza, Pomodoro’s, Fresh Pasta Shoppe, Cash & Carry, Cronig’s Market, Stop & Shop, Island Food Products, Cumberland Farms, Vineyard Bottled Waters and from the Tisbury School cafeteria volunteers.
Meanwhile back in the teeming cafeteria, Tisbury School dad Jim Cranston, a veteran of the 2006 pizza event, was seated at a table overseeing sons Sean, age seven and Nicholas, age three. After a discussion about dessert choices, Sean and Nicholas took a dollar and headed for the chocolate chip cookies. Asked about the event while watching his sons, Mr. Cranston chuckled, “ I’ve got a first grader. I’ve got a long way to go with this.”