Izzy Olivi, Frankie Spinazzola and Daniel Hopper, all 4, show off their class’s penny wars donation jar.

Izzy Olivi, Frankie Spinazzola and Daniel Hopper, all 4, show off their class’s penny wars donation jar.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Farmington Hills kids raise money for Make-A-Wish Foundation

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published November 5, 2019

 Izzy Olivi, 4, poses with the donation tracker at The Learning Experience center in Farmington Hills.

Izzy Olivi, 4, poses with the donation tracker at The Learning Experience center in Farmington Hills.

Photo by Deb Jacques


FARMINGTON HILLS — Making an impact on the lives of children in need is wonderful, but when children can help other children, that feeling is even better.

That’s the goal of The Learning Experience, a national child care and early education brand with facilities across the country. It offers programs for infants through kindergartners, as well as some before- and after-school elementary-age care.

“The structure and purpose of the brand was to not only have a positive impact on the lives of children through the ABCs and 123s of curriculum, but recognizing we also have the opportunity and responsibility to teach children life lessons that will impact them beyond education,” said Brad Wahl, the senior vice president of brands for The Learning Experience. “Philanthropy has been one of those core elements since the very beginning.”

Throughout October, children at The Learning Experience center in Farmington Hills teamed up with other centers across the nation for the company’s second year of Bubbles’ Road to Wishes, a national fundraising campaign to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Through the fun-loving characters of Bubbles the Elephant, Charity the Chihuahua and Grace the Greyhound, the Bubbles’ Road to Wishes curriculum took them on a journey across the United States, where they learned about different landmarks and were taught the importance of philanthropy along the way.

The Farmington Hills center conducted penny wars between all of the age groups throughout the month, as well as a trunk-or-treat event Oct. 25 where parents could purchase raffle tickets and donate money to smash pumpkin pie into center Director Jennifer Bennetts’ face.

The Learning Experience centers nationwide raised $466,179 for Make-A-Wish. At press time, the Farmington Hills center had contributed approximately $1,100 to the donation pool, though not all of the money from the penny wars was included in the total. Overall, the centers in southeast Michigan raised over $12,000.

All of the money raised by the children in southeast Michigan stays within the community to be donated to Make-A-Wish Michigan, based in Brighton.

Bennetts believes the kids at her center have truly learned the importance of philanthropy through this fundraiser and their events.

“I’ve seen them all recognize that this is going to children who have illnesses, so they’re really pushing their parents to come and help and donate,” she said. “They can really see the impact that they’re having just donating the change they have to make somebody’s wish come true.”

Bennetts said the philanthropy aspect is one of her favorite parts of the center’s curriculum.

“The math and science and everything else they take on, obviously, that helps them grow as an individual,” she said, “but this actually helps them be part of the community and give back to people who are in need.”

Teaching children about how to care for and respect others at a young age has been a primary focus, Wahl said.

“I think one of the things we’ve really focused on recognizing in today’s world ... it’s not all about going to Harvard anymore,” he said. “It’s about building up children who can have an impact on the world and the future. Making a difference is going to come from people who care about others, who care about a variety of things we’re focusing on beyond the ABCs and 123s.”

During the inaugural year of the Bubbles’ Road to Wishes fundraiser last year, the company raised approximately $370,000, which equates to granting wishes for roughly 70 Make-A-Wish children. With the total raised this year, Wahl said they’ll be able to help out even more kids.

Bennetts said that beyond this fundraiser, the Farmington Hills center focuses on a different philanthropic event each month.

“Next month we’re going to work with the Humane Society, so it just reminds them that there are different places and different avenues to give back to the community.”

For more information about The Learning Experience, visit thelearningexperience.com.