STEPHENSON — Stephenson Elementary School will receive a $2,180 donation from the Chrysler Cars 4 Classroom fundraising program. The donation may be used to purchase more books.

“Through Chrysler’s Cars for Classrooms fundraiser, the Chrysler brand contributes up to $3,000 toward the school on behalf of every test-drive participant,” a news release for the program states. Chrysler works with a dealership, which will set up a large tent at a school on a specific day and get people to test drive a selection of Chrysler vehicles.

For every test drive, Chrysler donates money to the school. It starts with $10 per test driver up to 100 people. After 100 participants, Chrysler will begin to donate $20 per person. 

“The Cars 4 Classroom program has been a great way for us to get out into the community and to give back,” said Nick Kartheiser, business manager at Riverside Auto in Marinette.

Kartheiser organized the event with Stephenson Area Public Schools before the end of the 2018-2019 school year. He said he began making plans and considering which schools to help once Chrysler announced the 2019 Cars 4 Classrooms program.

“They approached us at the end of last year,” Principal Becky Marciniak said. “We didn’t ask for it, they just offered and it’s been great.”

“I thought of a school that could benefit from a little extra money and Stephenson, being a small school in a small area, seemed like it would benefit most from it,” Kartheiser said.

This year, Chrysler specified the program had to use Chrysler Pacifica vans and could only offer the fundraiser to elementary schools. In the past, Kartheiser said it was offered to middle and high schools as well.

Kartheiser, along with a few other Riverside Auto employees, set up a large tent in the Stephenson Elementary School parking lot Sept. 13. They brought four Chrysler Pacifica vans to the school to use. The event ran from 3 to 6 p.m. 

“Our job is just to get people to drive. We don’t talk about buying cars, nothing. We just get people to drive the cars around the block,” he said. “It’s a five-minute drive that’s completely free for them and it raises money for the school. It’s a way they can give back to the community without spending any money.”

He said at the beginning of the event, there was a large turnout because parents were picking up their children from school. The Riverside Auto representatives also approached people from the public.

“It was getting to crunch hour and we started texting people to get over and test drive,” he said. “We did it. We made it over 100 people. In the last hour, we had 40 people alone.”

“Small communities always pull together to help, it worked out really well,” Marciniak said.

Once the money is raised, Chrysler does not dictate how the school must spend the money. That decision lies with the district.

“That’s up to schools, we show up, get them the money and Chrysler sends them the money,” Kartheiser said.

Marciniak said the plans are still early, but right now she believes the money will go towards the school’s early literacy program. Recent state laws dictate that students must be proficient in reading by grade three.

Stephenson School District has been working on helping its students not only learn how to read but learn to enjoy reading, she said. 

“We really want to get more books. We need to get books that kids love in the hands of the students, so they enjoy reading and become life-long readers,” she said.