Billings Catholic School students lapped around the track at Wendy's Field at Daylis Stadium on Sunday afternoon in the school’s second annual Jog-A-Thon, one of the system’s newest fundraising events.
Running on Faith, spearheaded by students, drew nearly 600 people dressed in bright green shirts who ran laps for pledges. After the jog, there was a family picnic and the annual RamJam Senior Cake Auction.
Jan Haider, Billings Catholic Schools Foundation’s executive director, said the ultimate goal of fundraising is to keep tuition costs at a reasonable amount for families.
“We really rely on fundraising to keep tuition affordable,” Haider said. “Tuition is the biggest part of our budget each year.”
As kindergarten through 12th-grade students jogged and walked, plenty of supportive parents stood around the sidelines or in the bleachers cheering, while some joined their children on track.
Cadie Reichert, 9, said she and her friends ran 14 laps around the track.
“It’s pretty much three-and-a-half miles,” Reichert said. “It wasn’t too hard because I was with my friends.”
Students who were jogging could collect pledges for laps they completed or they and their families could give a flat amount of money as a donation.
"We wanted to do a healthy fundraiser rather than selling chocolate,” said Kathy Harris, the school system's marketing director.
Last year, the Jog-A-thon raised about $80,000 that went toward funding new technology in the classrooms. This year, the money will go into a general fund for classrooms.
“The amount way over-exceeded our expectations,” Cheyenne Aldrich, the event’s chairwoman, said. "The Catholic community is really strong with a lot of support about giving to the schools.”
Billings Catholic Schools system and the school’s foundation raised nearly $100,000 more overall last school year than the year before through fundraising efforts, allowing the system to provide tuition scholarships to 50 students as well as fund projects such as remodeling a building for the Early Childhood Education program.
During the last academic year, the Billings Catholic Schools Foundation for the first time distributed more than $1 million to the schools — funding student scholarships, teachers’ salaries, science labs and technology for classrooms, building maintenance and operational costs.
For Billings Catholic Schools, its fundraising capacity has increased along with its enrollment. Billings Catholic Schools has posted enrollment increases for three years and is at a five-year high of 996 students.
When the jog was over, students, families and staff joined under a large tent for a family picnic hosted by Central High.
Afterward, people bid on about 80 cakes, all baked and decorated by seniors — all but a few. Austin Barthel presented a cake baked by Albertsons.
“I just procrastinated and waited too long,” Barthel said. “I had intentions, but the day came, so I just went to Albertsons this morning and picked up a cake instead.”
His $20 cake, along with five hours of his time to go toward yard work or house work, was auctioned for $250. Some cakes went for nearly $1,000.
The money all goes into a senior class fund that is used for things like their annual Senior All Night Party.
“All around, the day is such a great community event,” Aldrich said. “Our goal with this is to bring everyone together to enjoy each other and build stronger relationships based on faith, academic excellence and family.”