by Christa Dubill
LEAWOOD — Everybody’s had one. A moment when you suddenly realize several seemingly random occurrences are all connected. A feeling sweeps over you and you “get it” — you realize there is something else at work, that someone much bigger than any of us . . . has a plan.
On Oct. 30, Chris Arth attended the Catholic Education Foundation’s Gaudeamus event for the first time. It was a fundraising dinner with more than 1,000 people in attendance. Arth listened to the presentation and was impressed by all the organization had accomplished. He discovered CEF helped 1,138 local children last school year receive a Catholic education. He learned about the scholarships provided for urban and rural children and how desperately funding was needed.
“They gave the statistic that the majority of the kids who attend CEF schools could qualify for free or reduced [-price] lunch,” said Arth.
That statistic resonated, and he realized the students at his parish, for the most part, didn’t have to worry about food — or clothes, or even college, for that matter. It made him think about how fortunate his own parish was.
Arth continued to think about CEF the next day. And the next.
On that day, Nov. 1, students, parents and parishioners of St. Michael the Archangel in Leawood learned they’d won a $50,000 grant for new smart boards for their school. The kids were so excited. They had worked hard to get the votes needed for their win. They’d put together a music video. They’d encouraged their friends and families to vote for them. Three moms led the monthlong push: Beth Croake, Kim Ulowetz, and Christine Bush.
“It was a fun experience to see everyone working together and people having fun doing something in support of our school,” said Croake.
The school came in fourth in a competition of hundreds of organizations and would now get the high-tech teaching tools. But the experience was bittersweet because, in the process, those involved learned of many other organizations in need of funding.
“I learned that everyone has their own things they’re working for. It was 1000 different organizations working hard to make the world a better place,” said Croake.
From foster programs to cures for rare forms of cancers, the students, parents and parishioners at St. Michael were reminded that many others are in great need.
On that same day, an administrator for a local parish received a phone call from a parishioner. The caller wanted to donate $50,000 to a good cause and wanted it to be a matching donation.
For every dollar someone donates to the charity chosen, he — the donor — would match the money up to his pledged $50,000. But which charity should get the money? The generous donor, who wanted to remain anonymous, was leaving that up to the parish administrator.
The parish administrator of St. Michael the Archangel, that is. Who just happened to be Chris Arth.
“As it got closer to the point we were going to be one of the winning organizations, we just thought our parish has a lot of blessings and it would be good to share that with the community,” said the donor. “I talked with Chris Arth about giving the money to a charity . . . and he told me he knew the perfect one.”
Arth told him about the Catholic Education Foundation.
“It makes me feel incredible,” said the donor. We couldn’t have come up with a better place to use the money. I’m excited to be able to direct our parish resources to something that has a very high impact.
“Talk about being in the right place at the right time,” said Arth.
So what would $100,000 mean for CEF if St. Michael can bring in the donations?
CEF executive director Michael Morrisey said it’s huge.
“It means St. Michael’s is assisting and positively changing the lives of 143 children who are currently living in poverty,” said Morrisey.
Better yet, the assistance would start immediately. The schools CEF supports have lists of kids who are praying for help, and donations will go to provide that assistance right now.
“You can donate to CEF on your own, absolutely,” said Arth, “but with this matching donation, you double your money.”
And double the number of kids whose prayers will be answered.