Star of the Sea School emphasizes stewardship, acts of kindness
Students at Star of the Sea Catholic School, Virginia Beach, know that kindness counts. All the way to 1,506 and beyond.
The school embarked on a different sort of fundraising campaign this year. There were no candles to sell, no raffle baskets for parents to assemble. Instead, students asked friends and family to sponsor them as they set off on a three-week journey into exploring the meaning of stewardship, pledging to serve their communities and to look for thoughtful ways of showing their care and appreciation for others along the way.
“During this time of COVID, everyone is struggling. Everyone wants to help one another, everyone wants to do what they can to make things better,” Carey Averill, principal of Star of the Sea, said. “It seemed the perfect time to try something new.”
The 251 students embraced the idea, Averill said, letting their lights shine during Lent in a myriad of unexpected ways, tallying of 1,506 acts of kindness and raising more than $24,000 for their school in the process.
Paying back in kind
Kristin Markle, Home and School Association online fundraising coordinator, said that Star of the Sea managed the program with the help of Raise Craze, an online fundraising platform.
Once registered with the site, students set up individual account pages, where they created their own, unique lists of all that they proposed to do for their community. The pages were then sent to family and friends, along with a message asking them to sponsor their student with a donation to the school.
Students checked off their tasks as they completed them, Markle said, so that their sponsors could see their progress.
“What I loved about it was how well it fit in with what we are trying to encourage at our school and that it helps the students understand the idea of stewardship,” Markle said.
Many hands, great work
Star of the Sea kicked off the first week of the fundraiser with several school-wide projects, creating a buzz of activity on the campus. Students decorated lunch bags for the parish’s Social Outreach Ministry, wrote letters of appreciation to deployed military and assembled 455 “blessings bags” — small gift bags filled with handmade cards, rosaries and chocolate — for residents of Marian Manor and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, two assisted living homes in Virginia Beach.
Students also held a food drive to stock the parish food pantry, collecting two minivans full of canned and boxed goods, fruit cups, granola bars and toilet paper.
A day was set aside, too, for students to spread a little cheer right at home, Averill said. During an event called “Chalk the Walk,” students were each given two pieces of sidewalk chalk and the school pavement as their canvas.
“It was so much fun,” she said. “We have two separate buildings at the school, so we have a lot of sidewalks to cover.”
By the end of the day, the gray cement was alive with yellow trees blooming in pink fields, blue bubbles and rainbow fish, all interspersed with the reminders to “Love others as Jesus loves you!” and that “God is Love” — messages meant to brighten the day of anyone who might happen by.
All in good fun
Teachers also encouraged students to find inventive ways to perpetuate the spirit of kindness by distributing “kindness coins” to those “caught” committing a good deed.
“One student came in early to wipe down tables, another helped the custodian,” Averill said. “One class wrote messages on Post-it notes and covered their prayer partners’ classroom door with them as a surprise. It was like that every day. The students just took off with it.”
At home, students continued their campaign, she said, decorating mailboxes with thank-you signs to postal workers, painting kindness rocks to hide in their neighborhoods, and leaving thoughtful letters for their parents.
“I think Raise Craze was a great success because it encouraged kids to do the right thing during a fun activity,” seventh grader Sara Ankley said.
No matter how small
The Home and School Association hoped to raise $5,000 over the course of the campaign, but, in the end, the students surpassed their goal, raising $24,375. Some of the money will go toward paying for the use of the platform, Markle said, but Star of the Sea will keep $22,941 of the proceeds.
The school plans to use part of the funds to purchase picnic tables and umbrellas for the school’s outdoor learning area, giving teachers a space in which to give lessons and hold activities outside.
And when the students do get to enjoy their new, outdoor classroom, they will know that they had a hand in helping their school.
“One of the best things about the program was that the students could do it all themselves and that everyone had the chance to participate,” Averill said.“Even the smallest students could open a door for a teacher or paint a kindness rock. They found there was no limit to what they could do. They were all doing something from the heart, and I just loved it.”