Like most walks linked to a specific cause, the Soles for Catholic Education walk is a fundraiser. In its first two years combined, it has raised more than $735,000. This year’s goal is $500,000.

But organizers see it as more than that.  

by the numbers

Pairs of shoes collected last year through the walk’s “stuff the bus” component. They were distributed to St. Vincent de Paul stores in southeastern Wisconsin. “Stuff the bus” is part of this year’s walk.

Number of walkers registered as of Oct. 7.

Volunteers involved in various aspects of the event.

Catholic high schools in the archdiocese. Each will have people lining the route, as well as manning a booth on the walk grounds.

Amount that goes to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. All money raised goes to the specific schools for which/in which it was pledged.

“It reminds me of the Communion of Saints,” Kathleen Cepelka, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, told the Catholic Herald. “People come from all four corners of the archdiocese – small schools, large schools, rural schools, suburban, central city, high schools, and are literally in one place together, joyful in their involvement in and commitment to Catholic education. The diversity of the crowd is unique in what we do in Catholic education.”

Marcy Stone, Soles for Catholic Education walk coordinator, said schools are making it fun for students, parents and staff.

“They’re having a good time with it. They do it in a way students come out and enjoy the day. It’s not just about fundraising,” she said, noting that a couple of parishes are doing large appeals of their own and didn’t want to use the walk as a fundraiser. “They can still use it as a great community builder and are using it as such. It’s a wonderful opportunity to gather together as a group of Catholics and share our faith.”  

Describing the walk as “a big family picnic,” Cepelka added, “I don’t think anybody who has ever been at the walk can say, ‘I didn’t have a good time.’ It is about pure enjoyment.”

All of the money raised at the walk is used for tuition assistance at the schools to which it was pledged.

“We are broad in the way we present that (tuition assistance) because students benefit from various aspects of a school’s operation,” Cepelka said. “For example, some schools use it directly as scholarship money. Other schools may use it for field trips for children that could not afford to go on them without this aid. There are imaginative interpretations of it, but it is intended solely to benefit children’s ability to participate in a Catholic education.”

While the schools receive all of the money they raise via the walk, the archdiocesan schools’ office is responsible for funding the event. Cepelka credited Jackie Rekowski, school advancement manager, as the “action person to get us the funding to make this go.”

Rekowski said sponsors provide “critical money” and in-kind services for the walk.

“They represent people in our community who are direct beneficiaries of Catholic education themselves,” she said, adding sponsors are giving back and “helping Catholic education and Catholic schools continue to be excellent schools.”

Rekowski singled out Mount Mary University, the staging site for the walk, as key to its success.

“We could not do this event without Mount Mary University,” she said. “They are a tremendous partner in this event.”