In the fall of 2020, St. Veronica Catholic School volunteers weren't sure whether their COVID-modified jog-a-thon would be successful, given the changes they had to make to the event and the difficult circumstances many of their families were experiencing. Little did they know their annual fundraiser would be their most successful in its twelve year history, and the prizes offered to the students would be the most unforgettable.
"We were set to hold the jog-a-thon last spring, but then COVID happened," said parent volunteer Vincene Caruso, "we had to completely change the logistics to keep the kids in their small groups and socially distance the activities."
Caruso and other parent volunteers admit they were a little nervous to modify their school's biggest fundraiser of the year, but they knew something had to happen to raise money for their school and promote much-needed unity when some families were clearly struggling. They decided to spread their event out over four days, renaming it a "Race for Education," assign morning and afternoon sessions to the classes, and set up activity stations for the small groups. The kids had a blast using hula hoops, playing soccer golf, and dancing to the limbo game. A DJ emceed the week's activities and school staff kept the stations organized.
The most exciting part of The Race, though, were the prizes that the students were competing to receive. Among the most popular was the initial offer for St. Veronica's principal to compete in a sumo wrestling match with another staff member on campus. When the students had reached their $50,000 goal, he would wear a sumo costume and challenge any faculty member willing to meet him in a duel.
"It was ridiculous, but so funny," recalled Caruso. "The kids thought it was amazing. We know that this is how we're going to have to do the event now. No one is going to want to run around the parking lot next year."
"We were amazingly successful," said Caruso. "Our goal was $50,000 this year, but in the end we raised over $102,000. Originally, we weren't sure if people would embrace the online system because of the technical differences from a paper-based fundraiser. It was such an easy process, though. It has been amazing."
The fun didn't end there, though. When one St. Vincent parish priest saw how successful the fundraiser was going, he wanted to keep up the momentum. He offered to sleep on the school roof if students reached a goal of $60,000 raised. When they did, he live-streamed a bedtime story from the campus rooftop, had all-night check-ins online, and waved to families from the roof as they arrived at school in the morning. The kids were beyond excited.
Caruso said that she knows other Catholic schools in her area are converting to PledgeStar for fundraising and plans to use the platform for her kids' football events in the near future. "It was really just the best decision for us," she continued. "It was just the best day."