MANNING - Attending a live theater performance, dinner ordered off a menu in a nice restaurant or visiting an indoor mall are all activities that many folks take for granted, but for many youngsters living in Clarendon County, that is not the case.
"I teach at a school where all of my students receive a free breakfast and a free lunch," said Tracy Weeks, a teacher at Clarendon School District 2's Manning High School. "Many of my students have never ventured outside of Clarendon County. They've never slept in a motel. They've never eaten at a restaurant where you order from a menu. It's not because they don't want to do all those things. Their parents can't afford to pay for those things or buy the gas to travel there."
Weeks teaches special-needs students with disabilities ranging from autism to intellectual disability-moderate and intellectual disability-severe. She also supervises an additional 70 special-needs students within the school.
"My students face many obstacles on a daily basis," she said. "None of those obstacles are things they can control. They deserve the opportunity to experience activities that other students take for granted."
Weeks would like to broaden her students' horizons with a trip to Pirates of the Carolinas on Dec. 17. The students will get to enjoy a live "swash-buckling" show in Myrtle Beach with a four-course dinner, aerial acrobats, sing-a-longs, a sea lion show and a battle that takes place on a full-sized pirate ship that's located in a 15-foot indoor lagoon.
"This trip could be the trip of a lifetime for my students," Weeks said. "The trip would also be a learning trip where I hope to spark their enthusiasm for learning by getting them to try new things while taking a trip outside of Clarendon County."
Just this week, Weeks said she learned that the bus they planned on using for the trip would not be available, so now she'll need to add the cost of a charter bus to the trip's bottom line.
"That's another $900 or more," she said. "These students could learn so much from this trip and not just educationally, but socially as well. Seeing the smiles on their faces as they experience these new things will be worth the trip."
Before needing a bus for the trip, Weeks' budget was $1,110, of which only $353 has been raised through DonorsChoose.org, a website where teachers who need funding for classrooms or events can solicit donations.
"If the trip isn't 100 percent funded, we get nothing," Weeks said. "No trip means no new experiences for these students."
Ahoy, all mateys! Scrounge through those wallets, purses, even couches for hidden treasure or doubloons. Send your bounty to DonorsChoose.org by logging onto the website DonorsChoose.org and typing in Manning High School in Manning. Scroll down to "Arrrggghhh, Mateys! Let's learn about the Pirates of the Carolinas!" and then make your donation. It's that easy to help these students experience the trip of a lifetime.