By Todd Martin

Special to the Daily Herald

A small school with a lot of heart packed its gym for a talent show that delighted the large audience and contributed to a worthy cause.

Fowler Elementary School, with a 360-student enrollment, gathered to watch students and guests sing and dance and raise $1,030 for the United Way.

Well over 200 people filled the gym for the show after school Thursday. The atmosphere was similar to a neighborhood picnic or extended family gathering.

Fowler music teacher Lillian Billie organized the show with the simple theme, "You Can Help," and the school's community did help.

"It's our United Way program, and the music classes wanted to do something special," she said.

Starting with the talent among the school's students, word got out and Billie gathered a young singer from West Ward Elementary School, the choir from a local church and other guests from the community.

KIIZ Radio personality The Babysitter helped out as master of ceremonies, and school staff members brought food to raise additional funds for the cause.

Before the show started, Billie said she wanted to share the school's rich musical talent, give the neighborhood a fun evening together and support those in need.

Fowler principal Debra Drever said the event, held for the first time a year ago, was so successful and well received that she was thrilled to support it again.

"It's important for the families to come together and see the talent and have a great time," she said.

She pointed out the simple format, with students sitting with their parents and walking to the small stage as their name was called.

There was no backstage or fancy lighting, just people in rows of chairs watching their children like they might do in their own living rooms.

"It's a warm atmosphere because we're all together," she said, praising the school's neighborhood as a tightly bound community that is kind and giving.

Fifth-grader Sara Robinette started off the show singing the national anthem.

After that, students sang, danced, read poetry, played piano, recorders and other instruments in order by grade level.

The musical styles varied from patriotic to spiritual to hip-hop, rock and country.

Two Fowler teachers, Mike Donovan and Hayley Dugger, appeared on stage in rock and roll garb with guitars.

They surprised the crowd by singing the children's song "Wheels on the Bus."

At various times during the show, students stood together on cue and gave spoken "commercials" about staying motivated or living drug-free.

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