Organizers of the second annual Soles for Catholic Education walk have a request for alumni and alumnae of Catholic schools: Give back.

“That (alumni) is our huge push this year – making sure our alumni come out to support their Catholic schools,” said Katie Heino, schools marketing coordinator for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. 

How to help

The second annual Soles for Catholic Education walk will be held Saturday, Oct. 25, 10 a.m., Mount Mary University, 2900 N. Menomonee River Parkway, Milwaukee.

Pledges for all
Catholic schools in the archdiocese can be made at Information about the walk is available on the website or by calling Marcy at (414) 769-3507

She said organizers are emphasizing “giving back the gift of Catholic education,” either by walking the two-mile course, volunteering at the Oct. 25 event at Mount Mary University, or making a monetary pledge to their schools.

$500K for tuition assistance

With a goal of $500,000, the walk is designed to help the archdiocese’s 99 elementary schools and 15 high schools, including Cristo Rey, which will open next fall, raise money to be used for tuition assistance, according to Marcy Stone, Soles for Catholic Education walk coordinator.

“It has to be used for tuition assistance; it doesn’t necessarily have to be a scholarship. They can use it to offset the cost of tuition overall at the school,” she said, providing an example of a school at which tuition might be $6,000 per student but because it raised “x amount” via the walk, tuition might only be $5,400.

Heino added that choice schools “have to think creatively how they’re going to use that money” raised from the pledges they receive for the walk.

The bus is back!

     “Stuff the bus,” a major feature of the first Soles for Catholic Education, is part of this year’s walk. Last year’s contribution of more than 9,000 pairs of shoes not only stuffed a school bus, but also trailers provided by Kelmann Restoration.
     The walk is about lowering tuition costs in order to give more people an opportunity to receive a Catholic education, according to Marcy Stone, coordinator of the walk and mother of three Catholic school-educated children, but it is also about “giving back.” 
     “Catholic schools are about service projects. Service is engrained into our children from the moment they set foot inside a Catholic school,” she said. “They learn that service is part of your life, part of your education, so that’s what makes this such a neat part of what we do.”
     This year’s beneficiaries will again be the St. Vincent de Paul stores in southeastern Wisconsin.

“Because with a choice student they already have that money available to them,” she said. “One of the schools is providing scholarships for that student to attend Catholic high school.” 

While money raised through Soles for Catholic Education goes to the schools for which it is designated, the money to hold the walk has been raised through corporate sponsorships and grants from foundations.  

“Sponsors’ money is used to offset the cost of the overall event,” Heino said. 

According to Stone, this year’s event will cost between $160,000 and $170,000 to undertake.

All schools have an “online presence” at through which people can pledge. Some, according to Stone, are more actively promoting it, while others are strictly using the website as their main fundraiser. 

She noted that when walk T-shirts were shipped, “boxes of them” went to all except eight of the schools in the archdiocese.

Using social media

Lest anyone think that only elementary school students and their families will be present at Soles for Catholic Education, the event includes a social media component titled “Treat & Tweet” linked to secondary schools.

“We’re providing the tents to all of the high schools; we’re asking them to bring some type of treat for all of the walkers, and when students and their families pass these tents, they can tweet about their experience in Catholic education,” Heino explained. “’Hey, I just stopped by the Pius tent…’ and they can all share their testimony. Then they can get a treat from each high school.”

To post on Facebook and Twitter, walkers will use #catholicschoolswalk. 

The high schools are being encouraged to bring their marketing materials to help promote themselves to the elementary school families.

Building awareness

While Soles for Catholic Education is a fundraiser, it is also intended to raise awareness about the kind of education Catholic schools provide.

“I do want people to be aware of the benefits the Catholic schools have to offer,” Stone said. “They offer a very high quality education, but they do offer some of those intangibles – the spirit that is there in terms of your Catholic faith.”

She noted that when she talks to teachers from Germantown High School, they tell her that they know almost immediately which of the incoming freshmen attended St. Boniface Grade School.

“They tell me, ‘The reason is because they do their homework. I don’t have to tell them twice. They’re respectful in class. They get the work done and they don’t have excuses.’ And to me those are life lessons,” Stone said.

Heino, a graduate of St. Thomas More High School and Alverno College, said a critical part of what Catholic schools offer is rooted in the spiritual.

“Every time I went to school at Thomas More, I knew that God was in that building. Christ was there. We’d say prayer every morning; we’d attend Mass,” she said. “That is something that is so important for our youth and our young children to be a part of each and every day because then they take that on to the workplace, and they’re better leaders; they are leaders of tomorrow.”

Heino recalled a photo from last year’s walk in which a principal is holding a poster that lists three qualities of Catholic education – faith development, high academic results and safe environment.

“Those are the three areas I think of when I think of Catholic education,” she said. ”We really need to build that awareness, build that community and show that we are a strong system and that it’s something to be a part of.”