St. Dominic in Brookfield is one of many Archdiocese of Milwaukee schools that held a virtual Soles Walk in October. The deadline for making donations for this year’s Walk is Nov. 24. (Submitted photo)

Though the event itself looked different than in years past, the mission of the Soles Walk for Catholic Education is more important than ever.

As Catholic schools reopen both virtually and in-person in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, they find themselves coming up against challenges unlike any they have faced in previous years. From the need to support hybrid classrooms to purchasing bulk amounts of hand sanitizer, the financial demands are intense. Schools are also tasked with providing financial aid to families whose income has been disrupted by the struggling economy.

Instead of thousands of Catholic school students, parents, teachers and community members descending on the campus of Mount Mary University on Oct. 17 for a high-energy morning celebrating Catholic education, thanks to coronavirus, the fundraiser had to be decentralized and adjusted.

Each participating school had the opportunity to “create a small, safe, socially distant Soles for Catholic Education Walk event at their school, or encourage their participants to walk around their own neighborhood,” said Marcy Stone, coordinator of the walk.

But though the physical walks took place throughout October at various locations throughout the archdiocese, the opportunity to support the Soles Walk mission will continue until Nov. 24. Anyone can donate at to any participating school, or to the “Supporting All Schools — Sole Stepper” team, which supports partially matching the donations made directly to the school.

Financial gifts will go even farther thanks to support from the Soles Walk sponsors, who have donated $125,050 in matching funds. Those funds will be distributed proportionally to each school raising funds through the Walk, with schools that raised more money receiving a higher percentage of matching funds.

The schools met the challenge of this year’s unique social distancing requirements in a variety of creative ways, said Stone. Schools like St. Bruno in Dousman, St. Dominic in Brookfield, St. Francis de Sales in Lake Geneva, St. Jerome in Oconomowoc and St. Rita in Racine held small walks on Oct.17. St. Killian in Hartford followed their walk with a brat fry in the parish parking lot to raise money. Holy Family Parish School in Whitefish Bay gave their walk a baseball theme, running bases with a different activity at each one. St. Mary Parish School in Menomonee Falls had their students walk together outside on Oct. 16, asking their families to walk one mile individually on Oct. 17. St. Peter in Slinger walked on the Ice Age Trail behind their school, followed by a “trunk or treat” event with sub sandwiches on Oct. 24.

All Saints Catholic School in Kenosha even implemented a little catechism in their version of the walk. Each class created a poster with a virtue that they had learned about, and then raised pledges and completed the walk in their physical education class. The school has raised more than $8,000 of their $10,000 goal.

“Schools are grateful for this opportunity to raise the funds they need to meet this year’s unique challenges,” said Stone. “They also appreciate the extra time they have to raise funds that will be partially matched by this year’s generous Soles for Catholic Education Walk sponsors.”