by Susan Fotovich McCabe
Special to The Leaven
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — “Hog and Grog” is unstoppable. The inaugural fundraising event for Our Lady of Unity School here is charging ahead, despite pandemic hurdles.
The Oct. 3 event will provide much-needed scholarship assistance for kindergarten to 8th-grade students who were economically challenged even before COVID-19.
Today, that student need has increased in the face of staggering unemployment.
“If it wasn’t for the ‘Hog and Grog’ event, many of our students wouldn’t be able to choose Catholic education,” said OLU principal Cally Dahlstrom. “Before the pandemic, 88 percent of our families qualified for the free and reduced lunch rate. I expect that number will go higher this school year.”
Serving a need
Nearly 100% of OLU families qualify for scholarship assistance. Approximately 40% of students are English as a Second Language learners. The event, which will begin with a Mass at 4:30 p.m. at Our Lady of Unity Church and move to a nearby barn (at 2951 S. 34th, Merriam), has already generated notable support.
According to Michael and Patty Morrisey, the event has already raised more than $95,000 in pledges toward its $100,000 goal, and is expected to exceed it. The Morriseys, who are members of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kansas, oversee the School Advancement Program (SAP), an initiative of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas designed to address the long-range strategic planning needs within its Catholic schools.
Our Lady of Unity is part of SAP’s multiphase approach to financially strengthen schools in underserved communities within the archdiocese. “Hog and Grog” will be the school’s annual, signature fundraiser.
Kurt Rall, a parishioner of St. Michael the Archangel in Leawood, is a member of the business team that serves Our Lady and is working on the fundraising event. After having toured the school last fall, Rall was inspired to help its students continue their Catholic education.
“I was deeply impacted last September when I attended a tour of Our Lady of Unity and had an opportunity to eat lunch with their students,” Rall said. “Being on site at Our Lady of Unity provided me the opportunity to understand the need and desires of the families and students. We can help!”
The OLU story
Part of the mission behind “Hog and Grog” is to introduce the archdiocesan community to Our Lady’s character and culture, said Patty Morrisey.
“Beyond the scholarships, this event is designed to tell the story of OLU and the people involved,” she continued. “We want people to understand the need within the schools in our archdiocese.”
Dahlstrom echoed that sentiment. She recalled one family struggling financially, even before the pandemic. They told Dahlstrom unemployment was forcing them to pull their children from the school.
The mother told Dahlstrom she was thankful for the education her children had received at OLU and was heartbroken to have to leave. But school administrators worked hard to find financial assistance so the family could continue at the school.
“I hear over and over that we feel like family to our families,” Dahlstrom said. “And we often support entire families through our food programs and our Friday fruit and produce boxes that our Knights of Columbus have provided during the pandemic.”
Join the party
Despite social distancing restrictions that limit event attendance, the Morriseys are confident they will get the sponsorships they need to raise funds for students. Individuals and businesses interested in sponsorships should go to the website to sign up.
For example, a $2,000 sponsorship will provide scholarships for two Our Lady of Unity students. A $25,000 sponsorship will help 25 students.
According to Michael Morrisey, there is no other event like “Hog and Grog” in the archdiocese. The night will feature a pig roast, beer, a live band and performances from OLU student dancers to showcase the school’s “student flavor,” he said.
“If you’re into fellowship, fun and helping during a pandemic, ‘Hog and Grog’ is the place for you!” he added.
The casual theme of the event is a good fit to the culture and family focus of OLU, added Dahlstrom.
“It will feel homey and mission oriented — just like us at OLU,” she said.
Hog and Grog for Scholarships
• 4:30 p.m. Mass, Our Lady of Unity Church, 2646 S. 34th St., Kansas City, Kansas
• 6 p.m. Cocktails at “The Barn”
• 7 p.m. Dinner at “The Barn”
For more information, go online here.