For the past three weeks, 14 Opelika High School rising seniors have been taking Philanthropy 101, a summer class where they learn the basics of philanthropy, nonprofit organizations and volunteer with nonprofits in Opelika. The three-week class concluded last Thursday with a ceremony, where the students showcased their knowledge and each donated at least $700 to a local non-profit of their choosing.

This is the seventh year that Opelika High School has held this three-week summer course with the sponsorship and help of the W. James Samford, Jr. Foundation.

“We at the Samford-Cannon Foundation are extremely happy that you have completed these three weeks,” said Lucinda Samford Cannon, president of the W. James Samford, Jr. Foundation, to the students in attendance. “My heart is filled with pride when I look at you.”

The 14 students donated a combined total of $10,600 spread across nine different nonprofits in the Opelika area.

“I was amazed by these kids,” said Don Shirley, one of the teachers for this class. “They didn’t complain one bit, even when we were chopping down trees in the heat. These kids were fantastic.”

The nine nonprofits the students donated to were: Miracle League of East Alabama, BigHouse Foundation, The Food Bank of East Alabama, Keep Opelika Beautiful, The Sound Wall, Storybook Farms, OGrows, Recycled Teenagers and Friends of the Library.

The Miracle League of East Alabama allows for special-needs youth to experience the game of baseball regardless of any disability. Opelika Philanthropy students Chas Brewer and Ashley Hilyer both donated to this nonprofit.

“I believe in the promotion of sports,” Hilyer said. “I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to compete in a bunch of different sports, but a lot of the kids in Miracle League have never had that chance. To be able to see their faces light up when they run the bases — it was a lot of fun. I want Miracle League to be able to continue to give them that chance.”

“I’ve been heavily impacted by my time in sports,” Brewer said. “The friendships and memories I have made have changed me for the better. I want everyone to experience that.”

The Food Bank of East Alabama’s goal is to nourish lives through a strong and equitable hunger relief network through a generous community. Ava Parker decided that this was the nonprofit she wanted to donate to.

“I learned a lot about the food and security issues in our community,” Parker said. “It really broadened my perspective. The passion of the staff inspired me to be more passionate about the work they do.”

The Sound Wall’s goal is to provide funding and support for local musicians. The renovated a house in Opelika into a recording studio and venue. Michael Van Horn donated to that nonprofit due to his love of music.

“Being able to help someone pursue (music), whether that is casually or professionally — just let them be able to do it to their fullest extent was really heartwarming to me,”  Horn said.

Storybook Farms supports youth experiencing serious life-altering circumstances with some serious life-changing help. They do this through animals and books. Maggie Brice and Kenley Jackson both donated to them.

 “I’m giving cause I love children,” Brice said. “When we went there I saw the kids there so full of love and joy. The bond they can form with the animals is special and magical.”

“I’m giving because I have personal connections with people that are different,” Jackson said with tears. “Being around them —  it changes you. Seeing a child be able to be around horses and be happy just like I was is special.”

Leah Bethea and Ahmad Walton donated to the BigHouse Foundation, which supports kids in the foster system and their homes. Elisha Oyola donated to Keep Opelika Beautiful, which works to do just that. Kaylee Traylor donated to OGrows, which fights hunger through community gardens. Jaleigha Doolittle and Zalen Shaw donated to Recycled Teenagers, which is a senior adult program with Opelika Parks and Recreation. Natalie Hickman and Kaitlyn Spoon donated to the Friends of the Library, which supports the Opelika Public Library.