Wild and Scenic for the Kids

Tickets on sale for Columbia Falls High School Academic Endowment's Wild and Scenic Film Festival on Oct. 16, a fundraiser for programs not covered by school budget

By Myers Reece
A scene from the film “Pathfinder,” featured in the 2021 Wild and Scenic Film Festival. Courtesy image

As board members of the Columbia Falls High School Academic Endowment were brainstorming ways to raise funds for their mission, they were well aware that the business community gets hit hard for donation requests. 

“We were just trying to come up with a fundraiser that was not just asking for money or donations, but some kind of fun event, a way to raise money where people were getting something out of it and could have a fun time,” Kim Wortman, one of the endowment’s board members, said.

Out of those discussions came the idea for a film festival, to be scheduled at a time of year that doesn’t overlap with other similar events in the valley and to feature content with wide local appeal.

The result was the Wild and Scenic Film Festival on Oct. 16 at Columbia Falls High School’s theater, with both an in-person and virtual viewing option.

“I think it’s an opportunity for the endowment to get some face time with the public and put on a fun event,” treasurer George Scherman said. “Sponsors have been very generous. So far it’s looking good.”

The Columbia Falls High School Academic Endowment (ACAE) is a nonprofit organization established in 2012 to provide funding for projects and programs that “expand educational opportunities, foster creativity and enhance academic experiences for students of Columbia Falls High School.” The ACAE is a volunteer-run operation, separate from the school district.

Similar to the Kalispell Education Foundation, teachers identify needs in their classroom or potential innovative programs, run the ideas past administrators and then submit their pitches to the ACAE. The organization then selects ideas to fund, enabling projects, activities and purchases outside the scope of the regular school budget that otherwise wouldn’t be feasible without the endowment’s assistance.

Through ACAE funding, students have attended Academic World Quest, Model United Nations and Quiz Bowl, as well as live theater and musical performances. ACAE funds have also been directed to purchase equipment, book and chess club resources, and music software, to name a few, and to host activities such as a LEGO robotics event.

A scene from the film “The Crown,” featured in the 2021 Wild and Scenic Film Festival. Courtesy image

One of the endowment’s biggest projects was providing $17,000 to fund new equipment in the high school’s science labs.

“That’s one I was particularly happy with because the kids were working with some pretty old stuff,” Scherman said.

Wortman said she appreciates the “juxtaposition of the big and small” in ACAE projects, from major expenditures such as the new science lab equipment to funding a book club last year.

“There are lot of different areas where the school can be helped,” she said. “It’s not always a huge project; it can be a few hundred dollars for a book club.”

This year’s film festival fundraiser is made possible by ACAE’s collaboration with four local businesses — RE/MAX Mountain View, OrthoRehab Physical Therapy, Glacier Medical Associates and Freedom Bank — that “share the vision of bringing community together to benefit students,” according to a press release.

The Oct. 16 event will feature six films, including “River Looters” about three river surfers turned obsessed free divers who hunt for lost treasures in the Deschutes River; “The Crown” about Will “Akuna” Robinson becoming the first African American man on record to complete the Triple Crown of Hiking; and “Stone Locals” about five people who anchor climbing’s “core and community” amid the sport’s growing popularity.

For a full list and descriptions of the six films, visit

Raffle items, door prizes and concessions will be offered for the live event at Columbia Falls High School’s theater, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. for socializing and movie screenings starting at 7 p.m. in the reduced-capacity theater. 

Both the in-person and virtual options allow ticket holders to view the films on demand for five days through Oct. 21. Tickets are $15 per person for the live screening and $15 per household for the virtual option, and are available online at  

For more information about the ACAE and to make a tax-deductible donation to support the nonprofit, visit or

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