Catholic school students have fun while helping others

Faculty and students at Nativity School on James Island present a check for $600 to MUSC’s Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital. The school community raised a total of $1,200 to help children at MUSC and the Ronald McDonald House. (Photo provided)

CHARLESTON—Pope Francis once said, “To change the world we must be good to those who cannot repay us.” 

Those words hold steadfast in the Catholic faith, which is why it only makes sense that giving to others is a core component in a Catholic education. 

Schools in the diocese are known for community outreach, both large and small, and engage in projects throughout the year.

Take Nativity on James Island, for example. The small school raised over $1,200 in just five days during Catholic Schools Week by participating in a fundraising competition called Penny Wars. They donated $600 to MUSC’s Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and the other $600 to the Ronald McDonald House in Charleston. 

With just under 100 students in grades K-4 through eighth, the staff was impressed by the effort to raise so much money in such a short time through the collection and earning of pennies, coins and bills. 

“We may be a small school, but our students have the biggest hearts,” said Lisa Giuliani, director of marketing and development. 

Principal Patti Dukes said that in the past, during Catholic Schools Week, they have raised funds for numerous other nonprofits. 

“We chose the Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House this time because we love the idea of students helping children and we felt it would be meaningful,” Dukes said. 

As for the students, it’s pretty simple. Harrison Hammond, age 10, said, “I enjoy giving back because I know that the people who are getting it are going to be happy.”

Dukes said the money they donated to MUSC will go toward purchasing teddy bears to put on every bed in the children’s hospital. 

Rilan Pitts, age 6, who is in kindergarten said, “We did good when people get to sleep with a teddy bear.” 

Mack Floyd, a senior at St. Joseph’s Catholic in Greenville, participates in a pageant to raise money for St. Anthony of Padua School. (Photo provided)

In another example of outreach, students from St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville raised money during a recent Spirit Week to help a sister school, St. Anthony of Padua, which serves K-3 through sixth grade. 

St. Joseph’s, which is a private Catholic school with 630 students in grades 6-12, raised $54,478.97 in just one week to benefit the elementary kids at St. Anthony of Padua. 

“St. Anthony’s does incredible work to provide educational opportunities for many underprivileged inner-city kids in Greenville,” said Russell Warren, a senior at St. Joe’s.

Warren said they raised the money through a number of events, including dress-down days, breakfasts, and games during lunch. They also held evening events, such as roller skating, swing dancing and the annual powder-puff football game. 

Other events included a chili cook-off following Sunday Mass with students and families from both schools. The most successful — and hilarious — fundraiser was the male beauty pageant. 

“Each homeroom selected four boys to perform a dance, design a catwalk outfit, and perform a talent of their choice. That event raised the most money, but also provided a good laugh,” Warren said. 

Susan Cinquemani, communications director at St. Anthony of Padua,  said the donated funds will be used for student scholarships, STEM curriculum support, technology needs for the classrooms, plus special programs and field trip assistance. 

In the spirit of giving, St. Anthony students are also engaged in helping others. Cinquemani said students and staff collected donations for troops overseas, including toothbrushes, toothpaste, socks, lip balm, water bottles, granola bars, and other necessities. 

The classes worked together to box up the items, resulting in six care packages that were shipped to deployed troops.  

Parents and school volunteers walk with students from St. Martin de Porres School in Columbia during their fundraiser. (Photo provided)

Schools also work with their communities in fundraisers to help defray their own expenses, such as technology upgrades. 

St. Martin de Porres in Columbia held a walk-a-thon in November that netted almost $3,000, said Delores Gilliard, principal. The event was a group effort of students, staff, volunteers and parents who participated in the fundraiser held at Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

Gilliard said the proceeds helped purchase online resources and other needs for the school.

One common factor in all of the outreach efforts is the joy people feel from helping others.

“When I am giving back to the community, I feel that I am living out the message of the Gospel and helping to make our community better for everyone,” Russell Warren, from St. Joseph’s, said.

By Theresa Stratford