The suggestion— why don’t we sell feet? — offered at a St. Matthias School staff meeting is now converting paper feet cut-outs into hundreds of dollars in donations for the St. Matthias Soles Walk fundraising effort.

The school staff was shocked when more than $300 was made selling construction paper feet on grandparents’ day at the end of the 2018-19 school year. They ran out of purchasable feet, sold for $1 a piece— but frequently purchased for more— that day and have kept the front office stocked ever since.

Principal Karen Earle said everybody has bought into this simple fundraising idea. Around the school, there are competitions among students, classrooms and teachers to see who can be the first to line the hallways with feet.

“Everybody kind of laughs about the feet, but it’s been effective and everybody talks about the feet,” Earle said. The success so far has guaranteed that they will continue selling these construction paper cut-outs for the Soles Walk and pitch it as an opportunity for students to earn service hours.

“We are literally lining the halls. We have two buildings connected by a gym and a tunnel, and our goal is to line the feet through the school,” Earle said.

By August, the hallways decorated with names of feet purchasers or inspirational messages inscribed on little paper feet confirmed St. Matthias was on track to exceed this goal.

And then they got a phone call from Wauwatosa Catholic. “They want to challenge us. They heard about the feet,” Earle’s staff told her.

Wauwatosa Catholic’s Principal Lori Suarez challenged Earle and St. Matthias to see who could sell the most feet— and the losing principal must wear the other school’s mascot for a day.

Earle didn’t hesitate. “I said ‘No, that would be great.’” And then she asked Suarez, “What is your mascot?”

What started as a fun school fundraising idea has now morphed into a community-wide effort to make sure Earle will escape having to wear a Wauwatosa Catholic Saints costume and Suarez from donning a bulldog suit.

Considering what is at stake, Earle said, “I don’t intend on wearing their mascot. We are the Bulldogs, so [no matter what] I think I got the better end of the deal.”

The phone call came after Suarez and her staff heard about St. Matthias’ feet-selling endeavors, and they realized this friendly school competition would generate buy-in from the Wauwatosa Catholic community and its parishes — “We are always up for a good challenge,” Suarez said.

As an avid runner, Suarez enjoys the excitement that comes with competition, and hopes that “we will have so many feet throughout our building and then we can move those feet unto the parish so that they’ll see it, live it, breathe it.”

Though Wauwatosa Catholic sports a tennis shoe tread as their paper cut-out instead of St. Matthias’ foot outline, both schools are filling their hallways fast — and hope to increase sales with the start of school.

One St. Matthias parent told Earle, “We are going to work real hard at the car wash because we can’t have you wearing that mascot.”

The challenge has evolved into much more than feet.

The healthy competition is driving the community together and the amount raised higher.

“The best part about it has been that is has put the Soles Walk in front of everybody,” Earle said. Selling paper feet has brought the greater parish-school community together and unleashed the creativity of the students.

Inspired by the foot sales, one rising seventh grader called Earle this summer and asked if she could open a school store when the new term starts. Other students are advocating for a coupon book to earn coupons and redeem them in the new school store or an out-of-uniform day pass.

But Principal Earle was quick to point out, “I don’t want to give away all of our secrets.”

The foot sales for the Soles Walk, and following competition, has instigated a successful community building and fundraising effort for both schools. No matter which school exceeds the other in paper feet sold, both will have accomplished their goal of uniting the community.

“It’s fun and it brings your kids and teachers together; it’s a good way to connect the school and the parish; and everything that you are doing is helping the school which in the end helps the parish,” Earle said. “There’s no down side to the Soles Walk.”

“It’s a win-win-win.”