School events raise funds, build bonds
The roads around Keuka College teemed with activity July 10 as bikers of all ages pedaled their way through the area in support of St. Michael School in Penn Yan. Sixty bikers participated in the school's first Bike the Bluff fundraiser, which exceeded organizers' expectations and netted just more than $8,000, according to Sally Prather, a member of St. Michael's development committee.
"We were hoping the first year to get 50 bikers and raise $5,000," said Prather, who came up with the idea for the biking fundraiser. "The weather was perfect and ... we had a good turnout."
St. Michael is one of a number of diocesan Catholic schools that holds fundraisers that double as fun, physical activities to build bonds between students, staff, families and their communities. Students at Holy Family Catholic Schools in Elmira have participated in the schools' Race for Education fundraiser each fall for at least a dozen years, noted Joe Kosmicki, director of public relations and development for the Elmira schools.
St. Lawrence School in Greece holds a walk-a-thon each fall, and St. Pius Tenth School in Chili and St. John Neumann School in Rochester each hold golf tournaments to raise funds for the schools. And in late August St. Mary School in Canandaigua will hold its sixth-annual Chosen Run, a 5-kilometer road race that attracts members of both the school community as well as the wider running community.
In a similar fashion, Bike the Bluff brought members of the St. Michael School community together with the biking community and the rest of the Penn Yan community, said Prather, mother of two current St. Michael students and one recent St. Michael graduate. Prather proposed the bike fundraiser in early 2010, when the school's development committee and David Paddock, principal, were trying to put together a fundraiser for July.
"We have a 12-month fundraising calendar, and we try to do one substantial event a month," Paddock told the Catholic Courier. "We were looking for something for July."
"I had the crazy idea for this event," Prather said of Bike the Bluff. "We were just trying to think of something that would draw in the community, and there are a lot of people that bike in this area."
"It's definitely a cool idea," Paddock added. "It's a good thing for families to do. You get outside, you ride your bike. It's fun, it's with family."
After settling on Bike the Bluff as the July fundraiser, a committee of volunteers spent the first half of 2010 planning the event. They mapped out three separate routes for participants to bike. There was an easy five-mile route, a "family-friendly" 12-mile route and a more challenging 18-mile route, Prather said. The scenic shoreline of Keuka Lake was visible from each route. Families and individuals paid between $20 and $50 to register for the event and were expected to raise at least $100 in sponsorship pledges.
Prather said one of the most enthusiastic Bike the Bluff participants was Father Jack O'Connor, a retired priest who serves Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community. Father O'Connor rode the 18-mile route the day before the event to prepare himself, then on July 10 rode the 12-mile route with Paddock.
"Father Jack raised $1,500 for us. I think that was a real special treat, that he was so enthusiastic about the event and asked all of his friends and family to sponsor him," Prather said.
Sponsorships from family members and friends also are a big part of Holy Family's Race for Education, Kosmicki said. Several weeks before the race, Holy Family students put together a list of people who might be interested in sponsoring them. That list usually includes everyone from aunts and uncles to piano teachers, Kosmicki said. Then the students put their writing skills to work.
"They write a personal letter to Aunt Lucy or Mr. Jones, explaining why they love the school. It's a personal appeal from the students to the potential sponsors," Kosmicki said.
Sponsors then pledge to contribute a certain amount of money for each lap the students complete during the timed race, Kosmicki said. Last year the race brought in just over $20,000, which is comparable with other amouns raised in recent years, he said.
"From a dollar standpoint (the race) is successful. It generates a fair amount of cash," Kosmicki said. "The warm, fuzzy side is it's a great spirit builder for the students."
The athletic students in the older grades take the race seriously and are very competitive, but the less athletic students enjoy the event too, since it gives them a chance to casually converse with their classmates, Kosmicki said. One boy and one girl from each class are awarded an Olympic-style medal, which is a big motivating factor for some of the younger kids, he added.
"They're in it for the bling," he said.