Williams/Ledger Elementary fifth grader Romella Spitzer compliments her older sister, Samantha, on her canvas that she is painting. Romella knows that painting is one of Samantha’s favorite activities, and the two sisters enjoy the hobby together.
It is those memorable times that Romella has shared with Samantha — who has autism — that led her to plan, implement, and create an event that opened up the world of art to children with disabilities.
Romella hosted Copperas Cove’s inaugural Chocolate Fantasia event as her community service project as the 2020 Preteen Miss Five Hills. Event proceeds purchased sensory classroom equipment for CCISD students with autism.
For her efforts, Romella was chosen to receive the 2021 Student Heroes Award for Texas State Board of Education District 14.
“This is a prestigious award as you are one of only 12 students selected statewide this year who will receive this recognition for the acts of kindness, charity, and selfless service you offered toward others,” Heroes Program Coordinator Lenny Sanchez wrote in his announcement letter to Romella.
Chocolate Fantasia netted $1,907 after expenses. Romella applied for a grant for additional funds and received another $1,500 bringing her total raised to $3,407 to purchase sensory classroom equipment for Copperas Cove ISD to benefit students like her sister.
“I would like to thank the Copperas Cove Miss Five Hills Scholarship Pageant for the opportunity to have this event to let the CCISD special education students shine with their artwork,” Romella said. “Allowing the community to see just how special these students are and that even with the different disabilities, we are all special.”
It took Romella seven months to plan and execute her event. It all began when Romella hosted her first lemonade stand during National Lemonade Day Weekend in July 2020 and raised $233 to purchase the canvasses and supplies for autistic students to create their artwork.
The proposal of a Valentine’s Day outing for adults where the artwork would be on display was suggested by the Miss Five Hills Scholarship Program, and Romella immediately went to work on the idea. She met with district officials and created a Google Drive entry form for parents of autistic students to complete if they wanted their children to participate in the art show.
Ultimately, 28 special education students had their artwork displayed at Chocolate Fantasia.
Romella continues her volunteer work and hosted a lemonade stand during National Lemonade Day Weekend again in 2021. All of her proceeds again benefitted students with autism.
“This award is a testimonial to everyone,” Romella said. “If you set your mind on a goal and work hard, your dreams will come true.”