Smarties raise money to head to global

Team “Smarties,” girls from Salida and Buena Vista, is raising funds to compete globally as part of Destination Imagination to present their reimagined production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” From left are River Miller, 8, Charlotte Molitor, 9, Lillian Molitor, 11, Kate Molitor, 6, and Danielle Leuenberger, 9.


Willy Wonka has lost his mind … but the Destination Imagination team “Smarties” knows what to do. The team of homeschooled girls from Salida and Buena Vista is fundraising to take their clever reimagining of the classic story to a global level May 19 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Destination Imagination is a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) challenge program for kids, who are given five months to solve a problem with STEAM concepts and creativity. 

The team consists of River Miller, 8, Charlotte Molitor, 9, Lillian Molitor, 11, Kate Molitor, 6, and Danielle Leuenberger, 9.

The Smarties picked the category of fine arts for the challenge. Their prompt is to retell a story from a different perspective, including a literary device, by coming up with their own script, setup and performance, with no help from adults and an eight-minute time limit.

The Smarties chose to tell a 6-minute, 40-second story from the perspective of Willy Wonka’s Oompa-Loompas, who set out to find a new boss. The literary device they chose was idioms.

With paper engineering, the girls created scene changes to look like a giant pop-up book.

“One of my (prop) favorites is a working conveyor belt that actually moves,” Salidan Danielle Leuenberger said. “We call it the gum machine.”

Danielle also said a favorite part of the production is their opening song and the funny idioms, such as “He’s nuttier than a fruitcake.”

“The Oompa-Loompas have a lot of humor,” she said, and silly explanations for the idioms.

The team took first place at regionals in Pueblo in March and first place at state on April 1. So far they have raised $4,500. The entry fee for global competition is $5,500, but they are hoping to make $7,000 to account for travel to Kansas City, Bryan Leuenberger, Danielle’s dad, said. 

“What they’ve come up with is so much more than any of them alone could have done,” Leuenberger said. The Smarties is a first-year team competing against many teams with more experience, he noted. “They’ve really come together since October.”

To sponsor the Smarties at globals, contact Bryan Leuenberger at 512-619-8297.

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