Kids are motivated by the darndest things.

For students at Cameron Elementary School, it was the prospect of seeing their principal, William Mannion, kiss a farm animal that motivated them to raise more than $1,000 for victims of the recent Southland fires.

On Wednesday, the students’ efforts paid off.

Led out by members of Covina High School’s agriculture department, a 7-month-old steer named Little One was greeted by hundreds of excited students, all of them cheering “Kiss it, kiss it!”

“Mr. Mannion will kiss the cow,” school librarian Vicki White said to the crowd. “And then, because you doubled it and got to $1,000, I will do it.”

The crowd erupted with each kiss gently placed on Little One’s nose.

“It was kinda weird to see Mr. Mannion do that,” commented Daniel Alvardo, 10. “He’s pretty cool because he keeps everything he says.”

Even Pamela Fowlkes, the office manager at Cameron Elementary, ended up kissing the cow.

“I’m just so proud to be able to kiss a cow because of everything that’s been done,” said Mannion. “It demonstrates what we do here at Cameron, because we really do care about our community. This is just about the best place I’ve ever seen.”

The event and school-wide fundraiser was conceived by White after realizing a need among the thousands of displaced residents following the fires surrounding Los Angeles and San Diego.

“When the fires started we wanted something to donate to locally,” White said. “We told the students that their coins would benefit the kids who lost their books and toys.”

White knew, however, that children respond well to reward.

After a short negotiation with Mannion concerning what might be an apt payoff, a compromise was agreed upon: If $500 was raised, Mannion would kiss a surprise farm animal during a special assembly.

So, for the first two weeks in November, buckets donated by the local Dollar Tree store were stationed in each classroom.

A total of $1,295.78 was raised during those two weeks, far overshooting the $500 goal.

Representatives from the Community Foundation serving Riverside and San Bernardino counties were on hand to receive the check. The money will be put toward the foundation’s Fire Victim’s Relief Fund.

“This donation means that citizens outside of our two county areas are concerned enough to dig deep into their pockets and provide assistance to those who are in need,” said Paula Myles, controller for the foundation.