It’s never too early to teach children the importance of giving to others. Students across the Archdiocese learned this valuable lesson recently through the Catholic Students for Catholic Charities fundraising program.

In previous years, Catholic school students participated in Nickels for Neighbors, a week-long initiative where they held fundraisers such as dress down days and collected nickels in buckets.

This year Catholic elementary schools and high schools in the Archdiocese had almost two months to coordinate their fundraising efforts which resulted in $24,201 raised in support of the archdiocesan Schools of Special Education.

They include Archbishop Ryan Academy for the Deaf, St. Lucy Day School for Children with Visual Impairments, St. Katherine Day School and Our Lady of Confidence Day School.

According to the archdiocesan Office for Stewardship and Development, the program is “intended to connect and educate students with the works of the Archdiocese, emphasize the relationship between charity and our Catholic faith and prepare them to lead lives built on the foundation of Jesus’ teachings.”

Catholic School Students for Catholic Charities hosted a collection celebration with Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Fitzgerald on Thursday, April 25 at Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor. More than 150 archdiocesan students attended the celebration in addition to the Archbishop Carroll cheerleaders, band, Step Team and the school choir.

Bishop Fitzgerald recognized students from Conwell-Egan Catholic High School in Fairless Hills and St. Mary Magdalen School in Media because each school raised more than $2,000 for the special ed schools.

“The students from Conwell-Egan were excited about what they did,” said Sarah Hanley of the Office for Stewardship and Development. “They had a spirit day, blue versus white (their school colors) and had penny collections. They really were enthusiastic about raising money for the schools for special education.”

Hanley emphasized that this fundraising effort is particularly important because “the schools for special education rely on the Catholic Charities Appeal to support 50 percent of their budget.”

The funds help children receive specially designed instruction that includes supplementary aids and services.

For Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Meg Fleming, principal of St.Lucy Day School/Archbishop Ryan Academy, this collection is particularly meaningful.

“The support we receive from people’s donations keeps us alive and helps God’s special children,” Sister Meg said. “Most of the students are here because it’s a Catholic school and they want to learn about God. They’re thriving in a very Catholic community, families included.”

Students at St. Lucy Day School/Archbishop Ryan Academy attend classes at Holy Innocents School in the Juniata Park section of Philadelphia.

Sister Meg noted that this year’s collection focuses on children helping children.

“The collection helps the students to become aware of the needs in the diocese, and there are children who have needs, too,” she said. “It just makes it more personal because the students know the money is going to the special ed schools.”

At St. Francis of Assisi School in Springfield, Delaware County, principal Jill Carroll made sure students and parents were aware of this special collection in April. She explained that each month the students can contribute money so they can dress down on “Hearts Day.”

Carroll said the April 11 Hearts Day raised $350 for the Catholic Charities collection.

“Kids need to feel needed and know that they’ve helped someone,” she said. “The students need to know there are special schools and that other kids have challenges they don’t have. The students are always enthusiastic about helping, and their parents are too.”

Sister Meg appreciates the financial support and so do her students. “Our children pray every day for the people who help them,” she said. “They are very aware that people give to them, and they are grateful.”

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Elena Perri is a freelance writer in Havertown.