Catholic Herald Staff

Most kids dream of escaping school for just a brief moment. Especially during the lunch hour, and definitely if the escape route features a limousine. For the students of St. John XXIII in Port Washington, this dream could become a reality if they meet the $60 individual fundraising goal for the upcoming Soles Walk for Catholic Education.

As first time Walk Chairs for St. John XXIII, Julia and Tom Spankowski have participated with their growing family in the event for years. “It’s a great way to get the family together, support the school [and] something that we have a firm belief in,” Julia Spankowski said.

Both Spankowskis attended Catholic grade schools and have always supported Catholic education and appreciated its benefits— as former students and now parents of Catholic school-educated students. Three of their four children attend St. John XXIII; Pearl enrolled in pre-3 this year while Evan is in first grade and Ella, third.

The Soles Walk each year is a family event for the Spankowskis. Their youngest, Lyla, was born on Oct. 18, 2018, right around the time of last year’s walk.

“It’s a fun event and a great way to make memories,” Julia Spankowski said.

For her, memories of limousine rides and fundraising are intertwined.

Growing up, she remembers participating in magazine drives as a young girl to fundraise for her grade school. The top prize was a limo ride through the McDonald’s drive-thru. When she reached the necessary goal, riding in that limo to McDonald’s “was such a cool experience to get a special lunch for the day.”

As she and her husband assumed the role of Walk Chairs, they recognized the Soles Walk “had some untapped potential,” she said. Their mindset became, “let’s try new ideas and see where it goes.”

These new ideas are leading to a trip down memory lane for Julia Spankowski and free Happy Meals for achieving students.

St. John XXIII’s fundraising goal will go toward improving the quality of the hot lunch program and possibly offset some of the costs to the parents. When they were trying to think of something fun that would inspire people to get involved with this goal and inject a competitive spirit to help drive it forward, Julia Spankowski investigated a limo ride to the local McDonald’s, just down the street from the school in Port Washington.

“We strongly believe in [the Soles Walk] and agree to not only share that love for Catholic education but also make it fun for the kids to celebrate it in a fun way,” she said.

After explaining the fundraiser to Killian Management of Ozaukee County, which owns the Port Washington McDonald’s right next to St. John XXIII, they graciously offered to donate free Happy Meals to those students who reached the $60 fundraising goal.

Following the McDonald’s miracle, Phase One Limousines gave St. John XXIII a great deal on a limo rental.

Since the school is located right next to the McDonald’s, the prize trip will include a short scenic drive in Port Washington before they arrive at McDonald’s for their awaited lunch, and then are dropped back at school. The limo excursion will happen Friday, Oct. 18, the day before the Soles Walk.

“We are hoping to get our whole 180-plus students to do it,” Julia Spankowski said, granted, she added, $60 is a large sum for an elementary school student.

To mitigate this, Tom and Julia Spankowski created a script and pledge forms for the students to use. The students are encouraged to invite their family members and neighbors to give, and explain to them what they like about Catholic school.

Ultimately, this idea to engage students in the Soles Walk helps “make people aware of our school and the great things it does. Also, they get some fun out of it, too,” she said.

Other opportunities that foster fun at school include a mismatched socks day and a pajama party for the class who raises the most funds for the Soles Walk.

At St. John XXIII, “we have something very special. Its community,” Julia Spankowski said.

“Part of that is because it is a Catholic school, and this is a way to celebrate that community through the Soles Walk while celebrating with other schools and just showing the importance of Catholic education.”

This year, the entire Spankowski family will be participating in the Walk just like years past, this time including 1-year-old Lyla. “We are excited to do it as a family again,” said Julia Spankowski.