So successful was last year’s community-oriented Soles for Catholic Education Walk, that organizers plan to host it locally again this year.

In previous years, the October fundraiser was a large-scale event held at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee that brought in approximately $250,000 annually for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Incredibly, more than $588,000 went directly to schools last year, said Carol Rybak, Archdiocese of Milwaukee schools marketing manager.

“This was a dramatic increase, thanks to new fundraising tools and the proportional dollar match provided by our generous sponsors,” she said. “Based on the data, we found that participation from individual schools was higher since they were able to coordinate fundraising events at the local level with their community members.”

Schools are encouraged to coordinate their own Soles Walk-branded local community event that will raise money toward a specific fundraising goal, benefitting students and classrooms. Each school will utilize their individual fundraising page and text-to-give number located on the Soles Walk website to help make raising funds easy. The funds each school raises in 2021 will be eligible for a proportional gift match of up to $5,000.

The event is slated for Saturday, Oct. 16, but the 102 Catholic schools in the 10-county radius are free to select an alternate date in October if it is better suited for their community.

To give added excitement to raising funds, Kathleen Cepelka, Ph.D., Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese said that schools set local tangible goals to encourage giving.

“Schools will set a project goal, such as funds for a new reading series, or STEM Lab, or something else the school needs,” she said. “The donors are incentivized and more likely to contribute to a specific purpose. It gets everyone fired up.”

New this year, the Soles Walk will also include a school-initiated local service component. In 2019, the event included a “Stuff the Bus” shoe collection to assist families in need. This year, schools are encouraged to partner with local charities, nursing homes, food banks, non-profits or any other local cause in the community. This new component reinforces Catholic social teaching and tangibly demonstrates love for neighbors.

“Students might rake lawns, help with meal service or help with clothing donations,” said Cepelka. “There is so much they can do together to help others.”

While the in-person Soles Walk was popular, it was an expensive venture to coordinate. Last year, the sponsorship funds went directly to the schools, rather than to tents, banners, mascots and other necessary aspects of hosting a large-scale event.

“Our sponsors were pleased that the funds benefitted the schools directly, but there was a bit of grieving, in that the event was always like a big family reunion. Everyone looked forward to getting together each fall,” said Cepelka. “It was a trade-off, though, as we gave up the big gathering for more direct funding for the schools. For these schools with 150 or 200 students to get $5,000 is a big deal — many don’t appreciate that the way those in Catholic education do. These funds allow them to do things they could not do otherwise.”

Feedback from the 2020 Soles Walk was overwhelmingly positive, Cepelka said. Follow-up surveys were encouraging.

“The principals loved it, and they really had a desire to keep the event local,” she said. “We had more participation due to not having to worry about travel, especially in some of the outlying counties.”

For more information

Soles for Catholic Education Walk

Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021

Text Soles to 71777


Archdiocese of Milwaukee

3501 South Lake Drive

Milwaukee, WI 53207-0912

Phone or Email:

Carol Rybak

Schools Marketing Manager


Janelle Luther

Schools Administrative Assistant