Good things come in distant packages


CHARLESTON—The Charleston Catholic School serves a diverse group of students from the Charleston area. Their tuition assistance program allows parents to have a choice about their children’s education.

Patrons of the school are typically parents and alumni, but there are exceptions. Like Major John Wilkerson and his wife, Cindy, who monthly offer their assistance to the school from Washington, D.C., where the major is stationed at the Pentagon. He works in personnel for the Air Force.

The Wilkersons are not Catholic and do not live in Charleston, but they plan to one day.

Major Wilkerson went to The Citadel in the ’80s, and the couple was stationed here at the Air Force Base in the mid ’90s. Like many people who visit the port city, they fell in love with the Lowcountry.

Major Wilkerson, who is from Sylvester, Ga., attended private schools growing up and feels strongly that parents and their children should have a choice in education.

After hearing about organizations that offer tuition assistance, the couple set out to find a worthy program for which they’d become a benefactor.

Why Charleston? “We plan to end up here,” said Cindy, and they’re getting a jumpstart on helping the community.

Major Wilkerson searched the Internet and came across the Charleston Catholic School Web site. He called and talked to Patty Held.

Perhaps it was the development coordinator’s affable disposition that persuaded the Wilkersons, but most likely it was the merits of the school that drew their attention.

The couple recently visited to meet firsthand the students and faculty. The students shared some the school’s highlights: They have a good basketball program, the teachers are understanding, and it’s just a great place.

To show their appreciation, the seventh-graders made Major Wilkerson and his wife a life-size cross, which they made from various news-making photos, many from the events surrounding Sept. 11.

The major told the students that while he works at the Pentagon he wasn’t in the building on Sept. 11, but that didn’t make the day any less scary. As he tried to make his way home that day, he was unable to contact his wife.

The couple will continue their support of the school from even farther away. They are moving to Italy, where he will work in the NATO office in Naples.

The Wilkersons ended their daylong visit to the school with a PTO meeting, where they received warm thanks from parents and families.

“They’ve inspired us to review what we do for others and remember what Christ asked us to do and that there are needs beyond our own communities and lives,” Held said. “Their selfless act really inspired many of our parents.”