Milford teams tops at state DI

MILFORD – None of them had ever put on a "battle of the bands," but that was what the students on the Milford High School Destination Imagination team decided to do: hold an evening of entertainment and give the proceeds to the Jaiden’s Angel Foundation.

Destination Imagination is a volunteer-led nonprofit whose purpose is to inspire students to become the next generation of innovators and leaders. DI’s Project Outreach allows kids to do a community-service-based event and partner with a local charity.

The Milford High students chose the Milfordbased Jaiden’s Angel, which provides services and support to families with critically injured and terminally ill children.

It’s a charity that’s particularly dear to their hearts, since it was started by the mother of their classmate Jaiden Tlapa after the third-grader died eight years ago. For Project Outreach, they had to plan and host an event entirely run by team members.

First, they talked to the mother, Holleigh Tlapa. She told them the founda­tion could use more mon­ey to carry out its mission, but how they raised the money was up to them.

"We spent hours sitting around a table until we came up with" the idea of a battle of the bands, said Ariana Devine, one of the seven team members.

DI’s rules don’t allow the students to ask their parents or teachers for help, so they searched the Internet for ideas on how to put on a battle of the bands. Then they approached a local res­taurant for venue space, booked a half-dozen bands, and got local busi­nesses to pledge raffle and silent auction items.

They expected to make $500, but instead they made $2,500.

Pasta Loft donated space for the event, and local stores didn’t hesi­tate to donate raffle and auction items and gift cards, team member Mike Federico said.

They also raised aware­ness of Jaidan’s Angel by having a speaker at the event explain how the organization helped her family and by giving short talks about what the char­ity is and who it helps.

"It was an incredible thing to see – the com­munity coming together to support this," Devine said. She said it felt like Jaiden’s classmates "were keeping her spirit alive. It really touched all of us."

There was more to the Destination Imagination requirements than the community service proj­ect. The team also had to create a meme – a humor­ous image to spread among Internet users – so they made a billboard to identi­fy the project and created a skit using an 8- by 6-foot space and scenery to dem­onstrate how they tackled Project Outreach.

The project won its cat­egory in the statewide Destination Imagination competition. The Wizards of Cause, as the team calls itself, also won the DaVin­ci Award for its "unique approach to a solution, for risk taking and outstand­ing creativity."

A Milford Middle School team called the Milford DI Kids won its category by helping a nonprofit. The team members chose to support End 68 Hours of Hunger, which provides food for families of school­children over weekends, when children aren’t fed in school. The team worked with coordinator Frank Stetson to develop goals for their project, which included raising community awareness.

Seventh-grade team member Jacob Federico said they arranged for an event at the Milford Ar­mory with a bounce house, laser tag and food vendors.

Even though not many families showed up – it was held the weekend before Christmas – they made more than $400, ex­ceeding their goal of $200.

The kids also used their social media skills to help End 68 Hours get on Insta­gram, Facebook and Twit­ter, and helped pack food bags on Thursdays at the Milford Medical Center.

"It definitely made us feel as if we were making a difference in the com­munity," Jacob said.

The middle school team also won DI’s Renaissance Award, for outstanding de­sign, engineering, execu­tion and/or performance.

For the performance, they put together a com­edy game show complete with a host in a duct-tape tuxedo. Props were made from mostly recycled ma­terials and tied in with their theme.

Now both teams are rais­ing money to attend the Global Finals in Knoxville, Tenn., in May and both have a GoFundMe sites.