10,000,000th Guest Given 10,000 Reasons to Celebrate

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  An elementary school on the South side of Des Moines will be expanding its arts program thanks to one of its teachers dedication to introducing her kids to the theater.

On Tuesday night Donna Britt, an educator at Des Moines' Jackson Elementary School, got the surprise of a lifetime at the Civic Center.  Britt says it started two weeks ago when someone from Des Moines Performing Arts called and offered her free tickets to opening night of "Something Rotten" at the Civic Center.  At first she didn't think much of it because she'd been offered free tickets before as a 'thank you' for her work with "Applause", a program that provides special performances for school audiences.

It turns out that the ticket offer was tied to the Applause program, but not for the reason she expected.  DPMA estimates that Britt had brought more than 5,000 Jackson Elementary school students to the theater and decided that she deserved recognition for that milestone.  To honor her DMPA named her their 10,000,000th guest at the Des Moines Civic Center.

The plan was to surprise her at the theater, but the surprise was almost ruined by some pre-show publicity.  "I heard the news on TV that they were honoring an educator," says Britt, "I was like uh-oh, maybe this is me?"

When Britt arrived at the theater on Tuesday night she was invited for a backstage tour and the chance to meet DMPA President and CEO Jeff Chelesvig.  That's when the 10,000,000th guest surprise was revealed.  But there was another surprise.  Britt was brought on stage with Chelesvig who then presented her with a check for $10,000 for Jackson Elementary School.  Britt, a lifelong educator, says its the greatest gift she could receive.

"To me that's more important than anything is making a difference in some child's life and they can remember when I did this or I can remember going to the Civic Center. I'm in the arts because of this I'm doing this because of you, that's the important thing," says Britt, "The money will allow us to make more of those experiences."

Britt truly is dedicated to the kids at Jackson Elementary.  She retired from teaching in 2014 but immediatelyl signed back on as a substitute working exclusively at Jackson.  She was in a class room about 90% of the school days last year.

She says the first thing she plans to buy with the check from DMPA is some new guitars for Jackson Elementary's music department.