This story was originally published by Ithaca Week.
By Taylor Rescignano and John Stanley
“Hey!” booms Principal Donald Mills as he observes dozens of students taking laps around the Immaculate Conception School’s campus. “We’re not running, jogging or anything…” Principal Donald Mills said light-heartedly to a small girl. He chuckled as he reminded her to walk slowly, slowing down his voice for emphasis.
From noon to 2 p.m. on Friday October 23, students ranging from pre-kindergarten to grade six took part in the Immaculate Conception School’s annual “Fun Walk” to raise money.
The school is a member of the Diocese of Rochester, and as a Catholic school, tuition and fundraising are the school’s primary means of support. The Fun Walk is their second largest fundraiser of the year.
The money raised by sponsors will be used toward the school’s tuition assistance program for financial aid, technology in the classroom, school maintenance, or other things on a need-basis.
Rich Rasmussen, an organizer for the Fun Walk and a parent of ICS students, said that the event draws a lot of community support and attention. Parents take note of the fact that although the school costs tuition to attend, there is an open admission policy and scholarship opportunities funded through fundraisers such as these.
“It’s one of the things that makes you really marketable as a school,” said Rasmussen. “A lot of parents are looking around to see what the best environment for their kid is, so there’s a lot of advantages that happen with open enrollment, not just as a school district, but as a Catholic school.”
Each child participant is given a sponsor sheet, which is to be filled out by family, friends, and community members that give a certain amount of money to the school. Sometimes sponsors will donate a flat rate, and sometimes they will pledge to donate by rate.
Rasmussen said that his brother-in-law gave one dollar for every lap that his children walked, which incentivized them to walk faster to raise more money.
Parents and faculty weren’t the only volunteers at the fun walk. The Cornell University Men’s Lacrosse team, which volunteers often at the Immaculate Conception School, was also present to lend some helping hands.
Many members of the lacrosse team take part in a program called Big Red Readers, which was founded by former captain George Boiardi. Boiardi died suddenly during a lacrosse game in 2004 after being struck in the chest by a ball. The group comes to the Immaculate Conception School frequently to read to different age groups. The team likes to help out regularly, doing whatever they can.
“It’s fun. We love doing it because George [Boiardi] loved doing it,” said Charlie Estill, a sophomore on the team. “He was big into literacy and childhood education. He and his family are really supportive of this and it’s good to give back like he was trying to.”
The team marked down the laps completed by each student and helped the organizers keep the kids in line.
In addition to the Fun Walk, the school also hosts an auction in the spring, a spaghetti dinner in the winter, and an alumni appeal, where they ask former students to give back to the school.
The money raised from all of these events will go to whatever area needs the most attention, which could be as simple as school supplies or as imminent as building maintenance; Principal Donald Mills mentioned that the school is currently in need of a new boiler.
The school currently has 103 students but is looking to grow.
“When we enhance our enrollment we increase diversity in the school,” said Rasmussen, “and that advances the learning experience.”