Local Ministries

Topeka’s PACE remains a family affair

Hayden High School PACE director retires after 35 years; passes reins to daughter


by Marc and Julie Anderson
Special to the Leaven

TOPEKA — In the late ’70s, this city’s only Catholic high school faced a financial crisis that threatened to close its doors forever.

Those doors were kept open, thanks, in part, to the work of a Hayden parent, Linda Brungardt, who eventually became the director of Parents and Alumni for Catholic Education (PACE).

Through the next three decades and then some, Brungardt, a member of Christ the King Parish in Topeka, coordinated the concession sales, maintained the alumni files, coordinated parent volunteers and chaired the PACE auction. It now nets approximately $200,000 annually.

Along the way, she instilled a sense of commitment to and pride in both Hayden and Catholic education in her entire family. But it “took” in a particular way in her youngest, Eileen Canfield.

Now, the 1992 graduate, also a Christ the King parishioner, is following in her mother’s footsteps as she succeeds Brungardt as the next PACE director upon her mother’s retirement earlier this year. It’s a job Canfield said she is looking forward to for several reasons.

“I have literally grown up at Hayden High School,” said Canfield, “and I have a passion for the school. I believe in Catholic education, and I want to be a part of growing Hayden.

“I began working at Hayden about four years ago,” she said. “Mom mentioned she needed some additional help with preparing concession stands and someone to be in charge of all the spirit wear for the athletic organization and for getting apparel sales to the public.”

The cause was a good one, and the company even better.

“It has been enjoyable working with my mom,” said Canfield. “She has a huge heart and commitment to the school, which has been passed along to me.”

In addition to the annual PACE auction, Canfield will now coordinate parent volunteers. Years ago, when PACE was in its infancy, Brungardt suggested to then-principal Father Tom Santa that not just a few parents should help with PACE, but all families should pitch in and help in some way.

Today, each Hayden family is asked to sign a volunteer contract and commit to spending 40 hours on at least one of 112 tasks, ranging from sweeping floors or manning concession stands to calling businesses for auction donations. Without the families’ involvement, agree the women, PACE would not be the success it is today.

“Families like to be engaged in activities,” said Brungardt. “The most important skill I learned was to not be afraid to ask people for help and then to thank all the individuals for the work they did.”

But the transition is bittersweet.

“I will miss interacting with the parents,” she said. “They are anxious to help their children and to be involved in activities where their student will see them helping.”

Canfield, in turn, is excited to meet the Hayden families.

“Mom has taught me that without the wonderful parent volunteers, PACE would not be successful. I am looking forward to meeting all the parents and working together to ensure the future of PACE and Catholic education.”

As Brungardt looks back on her service as PACE director, she is grateful for the opportunity to serve the people of this exceptional community.

“The people are what make it so special to me. . . . It is a small enough school that, if someone needs help, we’re all there doing what we can.”

Brungardt also looks forward to watching Canfield develop the organization further.

“I want Eileen to succeed, of course,” she said, “because she is our daughter.

“But more than that, she has a wonderful way with people, and I know she will gather the people needed to make all her events a success.”

About the author

Marc & Julie Anderson

Freelancers Marc and Julie Anderson are long-time contributors to the Leaven. Married in 1996, for several years the high school sweethearts edited The Crown, the former newspaper of Christ the King Parish in Topeka which Julie has attended since its founding in 1977. In 2000, the Leaven offered the couple their first assignment. Since then, the Andersons’ work has also been featured in a variety of other Catholic and prolife media outlets. The couple has received numerous journalism awards from the Knights of Columbus, National Right to Life and the Catholic Press Association including three for their work on “Think It’s Not Happening Near You? Think Again,” a piece about human trafficking. A lifelong Catholic, Julie graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary Grade School and Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka. Marc was received into the Catholic Church in 1993 at St. Paul Parish – Newman Center at Wichita State University. The two hold degrees from Washburn University in Topeka. Their only son, William James, was stillborn in 1997.

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