by Moira Cullings
OVERLAND PARK — The students of John Paul II School here meant business as they lined up behind an inflatable tunnel outside the school Sept. 10.
As each grade was announced over a loudspeaker, they poured through the tunnel and onto the field, their energy buzzing as they waited for the Husky Hustle to begin.
It was the ninth annual fun run, an event that raises money for the school’s classrooms.
This year, the goal was $9,000, but the Huskies greatly exceeded that, raking in $14,000.
“Budgets are tight right now at every school in the archdiocese,” said principal Jenny Yankovich. “The money for this goes directly back to the classrooms [and] to the teachers.”
Teachers can use the funds to purchase a set of novels, new toys or resources the students wouldn’t have otherwise.
Yankovich, who taught for 20 years before becoming a principal, remembers spending hundreds of dollars out of pocket on her own classroom each year.
This fundraiser is a game-changer — a chance to ease that burden while still offering fresh learning opportunities for students.
“The trends change, the times change and education is different,” said Yankovich. “You need different things to engage different students.”
For the past few years, John Paul II has worked with a company called Boosterthon, which streamlines the school fundraising experience.
Part of the program’s appeal is it takes the financial burden off parents and creates a link they can send out via social media to seek donations from relatives, friends and strangers.
“They send us a map of the United States, and then they tell us what states we’ve received donations from,” said Yankovich.
The school has received a donation from as far away as Australia.
Students can offer donors the chance to pay a flat rate or a certain amount per lap they run.
They kick off the fundraiser with a pep rally two weeks before the Husky Hustle.
They’re motivated by prizes Boosterthon provides, which they receive throughout the fundraising period once they meet certain goals.
They even earn special treats like pajama day and extra recess time when they obtain a new pledge.
The morning of Sept. 10, which started with an all-school Mass, was long-awaited.
Boosterthon set up tracks for two groups of students and provided the tunnel, as well as a DJ who played music throughout.
They also kept things exciting during the run by challenging the runners to hop, skip, walk with a friend and jog around the course at various times.
After each completed lap, students received a colorful bracelet to keep track of their progress.
For parent Katie O’Hara, watching her daughters Adelaide, third grade, and Rose, kindergarten, take part in the Husky Hustle each year is a joy.
“They love this event,” she said. “It’s a great way to get some exercise, be with their friends and, especially this year, they get to be with the other grades.
“It’s just a fun way to get them excited about school.”
O’Hara helped her daughters record a video about the Husky Hustle, which they sent out to family and friends. She said the experience taught the girls about stewardship.
“They can see that by donating and raising money, their school is impacted,” she said.
O’Hara was inspired by what she witnessed during this year’s event — from Yankovich running a few laps with the students to a kindergarten boy who helped his friend when he fell down.
“We are beyond blessed to be a part of the John Paul II School community,” she said.
Yankovich is grateful for another successful Husky Hustle and looks forward to the fruits that the fundraiser will bring.
“Our staff is amazing,” she said, “and this shows them how much we appreciate everything that they’re doing.”