Students at two Catholic schools in the Finger Lakes region recently raised more than $12,000 by participating in walkathons.
One of the walkathons is the centerpiece of a decades-old tradition, while the other is a first-time event that was quickly organized when other fundraisers fell through. Each walkathon, however, raised more than $6,000 for its sponsoring school.
First- through eighth-grade students at St. John Bosco School in Seneca Falls burned off some of their end-of-the-year excitement by walking laps around and through their school building on June 14, the day before school let out for the summer.
Meanwhile, students at St. Michael School in Newark spent the morning reaping the benefits of their own walkathon. Principal Pauline DeCann awarded prizes to the boys and girls who’d raised the most money and shown the most sportsmanship and school spirit during the school’s marathon, which was held May 25.
The Newark school has held the walkathon — often referred to as “the marathon” — each year since at least the late 1970s, DeCann said. The marathon brings in several thousand dollars each year and is one of the school’s largest annual fundraisers, but raising money is only a secondary goal for the event, she added.
“One of the main reasons for doing it is just to bring everyone together and create a family environment,” DeCann said. “It’s just a part of the tradition of the school, and it brings all the children together and increases school spirit and camaraderie.”
St. Michael’s marathon was actually a series of three smaller walkathons. The school’s preschoolers walked laps around the gymnasium, while the kindergarten through third-grade students walked up to 28 laps around the parking lot and the perimeter of the school grounds. Fourth- through eighth-grade students made 11 laps around the block St. Michael is located on, added Jean Devlin, the marathon’s coordinator.
“It was a warm day, but they all ran. And they’re still talking about it,” Devlin said.
“And they’re so proud when they finish. They’re so proud of their accomplishment,” DeCann noted.
The school’s 168 students raised more than $6,000 for their school, a total Devlin said she was extremely pleased with. Some people pledged to give the students a certain amount of money for each lap they walked, while others pledged to give the students a flat sum, said Devlin, whose daughter, Madison, is in second-grade at St. Michael.
“I like to motivate her, so we did per lap,” she explained.
Devlin said she soon found out, however, that lack of motivation was not exactly a problem for the students.
“They like that run time. They like to be free, and they like to run like that,” she said.
The same could be said about St. John Bosco students, noted principal Mary Caffrey.
“The little kids would have walked on and on and on,” she said.
St. John Bosco’s preschool and kindergarten students took part in their own smaller walkathon on June 7, but the majority of the students walked June 14. This is the first time the school — which has only been open for two years — has ever held a walkathon, but it has the potential to become an annual tradition, Caffrey said.
The school year was already winding down when school officials learned that several anticipated fundraisers had fallen through, including a golf tournament and a chicken barbecue. Along with school staff and volunteers, Caffrey began looking for a substitute fundraiser that could be organized quickly and wouldn’t require large amounts of resources and volunteers.
The resulting fundraiser was the Keep the Lights on for Learning Walkathon, which played off St. John Bosco’s Let Your Light Shine theme for the 2006-07 school year.
“We tried to use the theme of light, sharing what you have and sharing your gifts,” Caffrey said.
Caffrey asked school families to provide the names and addresses of five relatives or friends. Students then wrote letters asking those people to sponsor them in the marathon, which would help their school “keep the lights on.”
“Sometimes what you really have to do is just ask people,” Caffrey said. “If they knew there was a need they would respond, and if you don’t ask, they don’t know.”
In keeping with the light theme, the various sponsorship levels were given names like Candle, for the $5 level; and Sparkler, Lantern, Torch, Spotlight and Lighthouse, the designations for donors who gave more than $100.
The letters were sent out in mid-May. Pledges began coming in almost immediately — some from as far away as Florida, Colorado and Minnesota — and continued arriving at the school each day for the next month, Caffrey said. Walkathon organizers had hoped to raise $5,000, but were pleasantly surprised to learn they’d surpassed that goal and raised more than $6,000 by early June.
“We had very few gifts at the $5 level. Most people have given at a level higher than that, which has been great. We’ve had a few flat-out donations that did not have anything to do with sponsorship of a child,” Caffrey said.
The walkathon was so successful that Caffrey hopes it will become an annual tradition.
“It proves that if you do ask people and you are very straightforward, you often get a very positive and straightforward response,” she said.