On a warm Friday afternoon in downtown Chicago, over 100 first graders, teachers and proud parents packed the cafeteria at the Frances Xavier Warde School in Chicago to present their Lenten project gift to Catholic Extension.
On a handmade oversized check, $11,025.11 was written brightly in marker. This is the ninth year that the school's first graders have supported Catholic Extension, but this year's record-breaking amount equaled nearly a third of the school's overall contribution over the last eight years. The funds will help support Cajun Camp, a summer camp for deaf and deaf-blind kids in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana.
Inspired by the Parable of the 10 Coins--in which the king’s servants were rewarded for making their treasure grow--each first grader was given one dollar and the challenge to make it grow for a Catholic Extension-funded ministry during Lent.
At Friday's ceremony, the young students stood on a stool to reach the podium microphone and share creative stories of service and giving. One student hosted an art show at her parents' house and sold her paintings to teachers and family. Another held a cello recital with her sister. Other students made everything from lemonade and cupcakes or did chores around the house to raise money.
Upon receiving the check, Catholic Extension president Fr. Jack Wall expressed his gratitude and told the kids how proud he was of their service and fundraising.
“You know how to care. You know how to help others,” he said. “These kids are just like you. They are good kids, they are caring kids, they are life-giving kids but they need somebody to reach out and give a hand and get a little bit of help.”
Over the past nine years, students at the school have now raised about $39,000 dollars for Catholic Extension-supported ministries. The project was started by the school’s religion teacher, Clare Hurrelbrink, who has helped it grow from year to year.
“Words do not do justice to telling you how humbled we are to have the opportunity to engage in this project every year," Hurrelbrink said. "Who knew back in 2008, when our relationship with Catholic Extension began, that our first graders would make their dollars grow into amounts we never could have imagined.“
“Through this initiative it is our hope to raise awareness in our children of the importance of service to the community," she said. "It is a lesson that highlights the Christian reality that it is in giving that we receive. "