Catholic school students ‘rake in’ money to support schools, elderly

| Kathryn Elliott for The Catholic Spirit | October 12, 2011 | 0 Comments

Brilliant autumn leaves underfoot remind Jackie Warloff of her husband, who died of colon cancer in 2009. Annually since 2007, when he became sick, students from Our Lady of the Lake School in Mound, less than a mile from Warloff’s house, have descended upon her property.

Tufts of grass appear as the kids rake and bag leaves from walnut and maple trees that cover her three-quarters of an acre. Their enthusiasm is a blessing for Warloff, and the fundraising campaign that leads up to the event — the Rake-A-Thon — provides for the needs of the school for a year.

Typically, at this time of the year non-public schools around the state solicit donations for rake-a-thons, walk-a-thons, bike-a-thons and service projects matching students with community needs.

Jumping in the leaves

Eight-year-old John Wombacher from Our Lady of the Lake raised a chart-topping $1,250 in last year’s Rake-A-Thon by knocking on doors almost every evening in October with his mom.  The feat came with a glittery prize: the Golden Rake, which came with an even better prize — a $25 gift card.

Wombacher said he likes meeting people around the neighborhood, but the best part is still coming.

“They sometimes let you jump in the leaves, which you’re usually not allowed to,” he said.

The Rake-A-Thon was begun in 1994 by Patrick McHugo, who has since retired as principal of Guardian Angels School. McHugo said the idea, which replaced the popular and familiar walk-bike-run-a-thon, was met with uncertainty by some students. A community organization that had previously provided food for the fundraiser took away its support that first year, he said.

After one transition year, however, the Rake-A-Thon became as popular with the kids — who got to jump in leaf piles — as with the recipients, he said. Many of the folks who took advantage of the raking offer were seniors who lived close to the school but didn’t receive visitors very often, McHugo said.

“It’s the whole idea of being the hands of Christ,” said Michael Moch, principal at Holy Name of Jesus School, which holds its first Rake-A-Thon this fall.

Catholic school students may hear about the Gospel of Jesus and attend parish community events for fellowship, but they aren’t always given the opportunity to practice the third prong of the school’s mission — to “live out” the Gospel, Moch said.

Schools holding a Rake-a-Thon this

fall include: St. John the Baptist School in Excelsior, St. Joseph Catholic School in Waconia, Guardian Angels School in Chaska, and Holy Name of Jesus School in Way­zata.

Our Lady of the Lake School in Mound spruces up about 35 lawns a year via the Rake-A-Thon.

Principal Ellen Feuhling has added bold, personal twists to the fun.

Last year, about 100 students each paid $5 to shoot a hockey puck at Feuhling, to add to the money raised by raking. This year, Feuhling said she might end up sleeping on the school’s bell tower as part of a fundraising incentive for students.

Keeping lakes clean

Another first for students participating in Our Lady of the Lake’s Rake-a-Thon on Oct. 28 will be an educational component — clearing storm sewers as part of the “Community Cleanup for Water Quality” program run by the Freshwater Society.

As students go out to seek pledges, they’ll bring an informational handout about the environmental danger of phos-phorous build-up in Minnesota’s lakes.

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