Buddhists give cash to schools

By Stephen Baxter, Daily Journal Staff, April 12, 2005

San Mateo, CA (USA) -- An international Buddhist order based in Burlingame donated $8,000 to Burlingame schools on Tuesday. The schools will use the money for field trips, new flags in a gymnasium and yoga classes.

Shinnyo-en Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Shinnyo-en Buddhist order, has been giving to local schools for 17 years, and it held its annual luncheon Tuesday at Franklin Elementary School.

Robbie Quiles, a seventh-grader at Burlingame Intermediate School, thanked Shinnyo-en for funding a proposed field trip to Point Reyes National Seashore.

?We will be researching animals and doing a project on them,? Quiles said on behalf of the school?s ecology club.

At Franklin Elementary School, the donated money will be used to beautify parts of the campus with clay tiles and Roosevelt Elementary School administrators plan to buy 50 state flags to improve their gym and teach students geography.

McKinley Elementary plans to use its money to continue a yoga program, which fifth-graders have been taking once a week for the past three school years.

McKinley physical education teacher Patty Rossi said students have increased their concentration and balance, and teachers have used the relaxation techniques prior to tests.

Two students demonstrated yoga poses for the roughly 75 guests on Tuesday.

Washington Elementary School will also start a course for parents to be more involved in their children?s lives.

Isao Ito, the bishop of Shinnyo-en, said the ?Bridge of Friendship? donations were a symbol of Buddhism?s altruistic spirit.

?If the Bridge of Friendship can help by transcending barriers of nationality, language and religion to increase global trust and make greater contributions to society, then I?m certain the fruits of these labors can be joyous ones,? Ito said in a speech in Japanese.

Ito gave an $8,000 check to Sonny Da Marto, the superintendent of Burlingame Elementary School District, to spend on the school projects, and Da Marto said Shinnyo-en has given almost $140,000 in the last seven years.

Randy Schwartz, Burlingame?s parks and recreation director, said the foundation is also supporting a substance abuse program to complement the school programs.

It will also provide tools for parents to talk to students about drug and alcohol abuse, Schwartz said.

Burlingame City Councilwoman Rosalie O?Mahony welcomed the anti-drug program.

?They are really great people ... the drug intervention program is a great idea,? she said.

Mayor Joe Galligan also said Burlingame is bookended by two houses of worship at El Camino Real on the city?s limits, and thanked Shinnyo-en for its contributions.

Burlingame has seven churches on El Camino Real, Galligan said, and their values reflect the city?s.

?I think that shows the way we want to live,? he said.