Twenty-four years ago, I was working at Loyola Blakefield in Towson when I took a group of students to the Appalachian region along the border of Virginia and Kentucky. Our ten-day project was to help transform a once occupied schoolhouse into a town community center. On a particular day during that week and a half-long Christian service project, we were tasked with relocating a large pile of bricks from one corner of the property to another location. These bricks would be used to build a new wall in an area that would later serve as the entryway to the “new” community center. To move the bricks from one area to the next, we used wheelbarrows to transport the pile of bricks. And with boys, making any task a competition is likely to increase the buy-in of the duty. For this reason, we turned the brick relocation assignment into a wheelbarrow race between teams of boys. The students were determined to fill up their wheelbarrow as quickly as possible and sprint to the drop-off spot and then return to the original spot only to gather the next load of bricks. This was a dirty job filled with an equal combination of sweat equity and excitement. As town people passed by the schoolhouse, they remarked on how wonderful it was to see a group of high school teenagers willing to work with such excitement. On our way out of town that next week, we passed by the old schoolhouse one last time. As we passed by, I noticed the proud smiles on the faces of the boys. It was easy to see that their pride emanated from a job well done and a satisfaction in the investment they offered in support of this small southwest Virginia town.
Last week as we concluded our first annual “Race for Education” event, I couldn’t help but recall that mid-June day in 1994 when 12 teenage boys raced across the schoolhouse yard with pride. In a similar racing fashion, the St. Agnes “Race for Education” fundraiser is unlike other donation events. In past years, our H.S.A. has sold chocolate bars, candles, wrapping paper and other items all to earn funds for the school. Instead of seeing half our sales go out the door to pay for a product that many may have not even wanted, we decided instead to make a direct appeal from the children. Each of our students sent out request letters to a potential donor group of extended family members, neighbors, business contacts, and family friends. And on each of these letters, our students wrote about why they are proud to be part of BEAR NATION. And as a concluding part to the fundraiser, each student raced around the St. Agnes schoolhouse yard. Prior to our October 18th race day, the students were in competition with one another to see who could bring in the most donations. And on race day, the students competed to see who would run the most laps in the allotted time. A little sweat equity and excitement drenched with BEAR NATION pride inspired our students to help raise about $23,000 that will directly impact the strength of program that we provide to our families.,
While there are too many volunteers to thank personally, I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Katie Wilder, Jen Doyle and Allison Joyce for their triumvirate leadership of our amazingly successful Race for Education fundraiser event. Thank you!