Katie Carnell helped organize St. Mary’s Visitation’s new Blarney in a Box fundraiser in her first year as the school’s Home and School president. (Submitted photo)

Early in August, a neighbor showed up on Katie Carnell’s front lawn while she was weeding and said that St. Mary’s Visitation Catholic School needed a new Home and School president.

The former president had stepped down due to COVID to keep her kids home and homeschool. Carnell knew this year would be different and much more challenging than it had ever been before, but she accepted the position and hit the ground running. She worked hard to focus on what the school could do for special events this year, rather than run down the long list of things that would be off limits.

“This year has been full of modified events,” she said. “Things like drive-by Halloween decorations.”

The school, with Carnell’s help, has spent the year doing the best they could to make their students feel engaged and excited while respecting the limitations in place.

Inspired by a similar event at St. Francis Borgia, and with the overwhelming support and help from Jamie O’Donoghue of O’Donoghue’s Irish Pub, they created their most successful event yet.

“Blarney in a Box” is a fundraiser of imported and festive food, beverages, crafts and shenanigans in lieu of the school’s annual school dinner and auction fundraiser. With the annual dinner so close to St. Patrick’s Day, they decided to center the event around the beloved holiday. O’Donoghue helped in every way he could, lining up donations from local and overseas Irish retailers to make the boxes the best they could be.

“We decided to do an adult box and a children’s box,” Carnell said. The $50 adult boxes include buyer’s choice of beverages, along with two pint glasses engravable at O’Donoghues Irish Pub in Elm Grove, a giant soft pretzel with mustard and cheese, and a mini bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey. For the kids, they’ve included buyer’s choice of orange or root beer sodas, an assortment of four imported candy bars, a giant pretzel, and crafts to keep the little leprechauns entertained, sold for $50. Boxes of 12 shamrock cookie decorating kits are also available for $30.

Their most successful box has been the “Donate-A-Box” option, tailored toward the St. Mary’s Visitation theme of kindness. Buyers were able to donate a box on behalf of the faculty and staff.

“We wanted to show our appreciation for our St. Mary’s faculty and staff,” Carnell said. Quickly they went over the goal to give one box to every person who works for the school, with the extras going to Saint Francis De Sales seminarians and St. Anne’s Home in Milwaukee.

Pick up is on March 13 in the school parking lot as part of a festive day-of drive-through celebration, featuring Irish music, dance and fun for the whole family from the safety of the car.

“So many people came together to make this day happen,” Carnell said. “Doing an event like this, with the overwhelming support from local families and businesses, all the teachers and parents, it really reminds me how lucky we all are to be blessed with this incredible parish community. Even during challenging times, we put each other first.”