In October, the Catholic Schools Walk is celebrating its 10th annual walk with a fresh new look, a new name and an ambitious fundraising goal of $1 million.
The event, formerly known as the Soles for Catholic Education Walk, raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in support of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s 101 Catholic schools. The first seven walks were hosted at the Mount Mary University campus in Wauwatosa, but the pandemic spurred a switch to a decentralized model in 2020, which saw schools stage their own local events.
That community-based version of the walk was so successful — more than doubling the money raised the previous year — that organizers have decided to continue with that model.
“The big thing is that we’re able to put so much more money directly into the schools. That was really our goal,” said Andy Gaertner, development director for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. “Our schools are profiting at a much higher level, and that makes all the difference.”
As in previous years, fundraising will be done through schools’ individual pages accessible via the official walk website, catholicschoolswalk.org. Additionally, easy donations are enabled by a text-to-give feature using a personalized number found at each school’s page.
Once again, thanks to the event sponsors, all funds generated by a school will be eligible for a proportional match up to $5,000.
That robust sponsorship is part of what made organizers confident in their $1 million goal, said Gaertner.
“It’s incredibly ambitious, but we just thought it was fitting,” he said.
“There is something magical about $1 million, and I am very confident our schools, supporters and sponsors will make the achievement possible,” said Bruce Varick, associate superintendent for the Archdiocesan Office for Schools. “I think the goal is a logical progression of building on the success of previous walks, and I know that setting a high expectation makes it much more likely that a high goal will be met.”
The 2021 walk raised more than $630,000, continuing a rising trajectory of fundraising numbers since the event became decentralized. Holding the walk within local communities has also allowed for greater participation at the school level and an increased sense of ownership over individual campaigns.
“I think the shift to holding the walk locally, as opposed to all in one place, and the ability to have the event on a day other than Oct. 15 have provided the opportunity for more schools to embrace the event,” said Varick. “While coming together as one large community has value, the practical logistics of coming to Milwaukee from all areas of the archdiocese limited participation.”
The official date of the walk will be Saturday, Oct. 15, but schools are invited to host their own events at an alternative date if it is more convenient.
The development office is also encouraging schools to identify specific needs to mobilize their donor base.
Blessed Sacrament School in Milwaukee has a fundraising goal of $10,000 and is hoping to use half of that money for its Student Support Program and half of it for its Blended Learning Program. Christ King Parish School in Wauwatosa has a goal of $30,000, which will be used to support tuition assistance. Holy Family Parish School in Whitefish Bay has set a goal of $15,000 for increased curriculum resources.
“We’ve really encouraged them to dream big — if you could do anything, what would it be?” said Paige Rohr, associate director of Catholic schools development.
“We’re working very hard with our parish schools to identify their needs and promote their needs within their communities,” said Gaertner. “When we really started the walk, we didn’t talk about individual parish needs at the same level that we do now, and what we’re finding is, as we get more parishes to talk to their grandparents and parents and neighbors about what their needs are, people are much more willing to fund those needs.”
The 10th year is also freshening up the look of the walk’s branding, logo and name. Known since 2013 as the “Soles for Catholic Education Walk,” the event was officially renamed the “Catholic Schools Walk” this year, switching to a moniker many had already used.
“This is a name that people have referred to naturally for many years,” said Rohr.
And though the walk is no longer the large-scale “family reunion” event it was pre-COVID, when thousands of participants flocked to Mount Mary’s campus from 10 counties around the archdiocese, Rohr said organizers are finding the new version of the walk still generates that back-to-school excitement within local school communities.
“It really does create this buzz around the common goal of what we’re trying to achieve through our schools,” she said. “It’s a fun event that kicks off the rest of the school year.”
Catholic Schools Walk
Saturday, Oct. 15
Text SCHOOLSWALK to 71777