Ready for the Denver Catholic Schools Ice Bucket Challenge?

Get drenched, give to ethical research, pray for ALS patients and families

Karna Swanson
Associate Superintendents
Sister Elizabeth Youngs, SCL, (left) and Mary Cohen, drench Superintendent Richard Thompson with ice water as part of the launch of the Denver Catholic Schools Ice Bucket Challenge.

Denver Catholic schools will begin a new academic year Monday, and ice cubes will be involved.

On Friday, Superintendent Richard Thompson launched the Archdiocese of Denver Catholic Schools Ice Bucket Challenge in which he dared three school principals to “cowboy up” to the ice bucket, which we all know means getting doused with some ice water, give to ethical medical research, and pray.

The Ice Bucket Challenge, sometimes called the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, is a social media phenomenon in which anyone with a bucket of ice water and a video recording device can document themselves getting doused with ice water and post it on a social media channel, all in the name of charity.

The way it works is that the participant makes a video challenging one or several others to either dump a bucket of ice water on their head, or give a donation to a charity. For the most part, the challenge has been used to promote awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and encourage donations to the ALS Association. To date, the campaign has generated $50 million in donations for the charity.

As Thompson explains in a video posted on YouTube Friday, the Archdiocese of Denver Catholic Schools Ice Bucket Challenge dares participants to (1) “cowboy up” to the ice bucket (2) donate to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute, and (3) engage their school community in prayer for the victims of ALS and their families.

The John Paul II Medical Research Institute, he states, focuses on the most ethical and cost-effective way of conducting medical research to help develop therapies and cures for a variety of diseases, including ALS, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. The institute’s website notes that its research is done “with an emphasis on medical bioethics that is consistent with the dignity of human life.”

The three principals challenged by Thompson include Marc Nestorick, principal at Bishop Machebeuf High School; Tim Gallic, principal at Holy Family High School; and Mark Strawbridge, director of Catholic Schools Activities League and principal at St. Pius X Catholic School. No word yet on if these principals will rise to the challenge.

To learn more about the John Paul II Medical Research Institute, please visit: http://www.jp2mri.org/

COMING UP: St. Louis students lend a helping hand to Haiti

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

st-louis-school-selects-12

In 2010, a devastating earthquake ravaged Haiti. Just a few months ago, Hurricane Matthew ripped through Haiti, further damaging a country that was in the process of rebuilding. Haiti’s need for help is as pressing and dire as ever.

Students from one local Catholic school are taking the lead and working to raise money to help Haiti from afar. For the 8th grade class of St. Louis Catholic School in Louisville, doing what they can for the people of Haiti isn’t just an act of Christian charity; it’s an act of love toward a people whom they consider to be like an extended family.

The story begins with St. Louis parishioner Wynn Walent, who works for the St. Luke Foundation, a Catholic humanitarian organization founded by Father Rick Frechette in 2000 that’s based in Haiti. Walent lived in Haiti for two years, and while down there in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, he came to know two boys, Vlad and Belony. After a time, Walent decided to adopt the boys.

In 2012, St. Louis and then-principal Karen Herlihy opened the school’s doors to the Haitian boys without hesitation when Walent brought them back to the U.S., and thus began a relationship that has since affected the teachers and students of St. Louis in profound ways, not to mention the lives of Vlad and Belony. Vlad is now in 7th grade, and Belony just started his first year of high school.

“Since day one the staff, students and families of St. Louis have welcomed the boys with open arms,” Walent said. “It’s a very generous community.”

st-louis-school-selects-34

St. Louis Catholic School in Louisville has a link to Haiti through two of its students, Vlad (pictured) and Belony, who were adopted by St. Louis parishioner and philanthropist Wynn Walent. The 8th grade class, with the help of the whole school, hopes to raise $5,000 by the end of the school year to donate to the St. Luke Foundation, a Catholic humanitarian organization based in Haiti. (Photo by Andrew Wright)

The boys have made quite an impression on the students and teachers of St. Louis. No matter who you ask, they’ll all say that Vlad and Belony “are very humble and have big hearts.” Not only that, many of the students are quick to point out that they’re incredibly talented soccer players.

Ultimately, the students said, Vlad and Belony are like family to the St. Louis community, and they want to help them and their brothers and sisters back in Haiti.

During the school year, each class at St. Louis is required to do some sort of outreach or stewardship project. With a tangible connection to Haiti through Vlad and Belony, the 8th grade class began brainstorming ways they could help those affected by the hurricane. While the 8th graders are currently leading the charge, they hope for it to become a school-wide initiative, with the goal of establishing a more long-term relationship between St. Louis and the St. Luke Foundation.

We’re in such a self-centered world, and I love the idea of kids helping kids and feeling good that they can make a difference in somebody else’s life.”

“We’re always looking to see how we can get our children to be involved in projects that take them away from themselves,” St. Louis principal Kathy Byrnes told the Denver Catholic. “We’re in such a self-centered world, and I love the idea of kids helping kids and feeling good that they can make a difference in somebody else’s life.”

Luckily for them, they have a direct line to Haiti and the St. Luke Foundation through Walent, Vlad and Belony. Walent can articulate the needs of the foundation to the students, and they can raise the money accordingly. Their goal is to raise $5,000 by the end of the school year to donate to St. Luke, but they hope to exceed that goal. As of this writing, they’ve raised nearly $3,000.

The school has also started a Razoo crowdfunding page for anybody to donate to, and one of the first donors was none other than Belony.

The St. Luke Foundation started with simple clinics in 2000 and has since grown to entail two hospitals, three clinics and 32 schools. They provide jobs for 1,000 Haitian people, and Walent said that it is 100 percent Haitian led. The organization empowers the Haitian people to help themselves and provides them the necessary resources to do so.

The resolve of the St. Louis Catholic School to raise money to give to Haiti is a testament to their reputation of being, as Byrnes says, “The little school with the big heart.”

More information

To learn more about Father Rick Frechette, the founder of St. Luke, visit http://www.stlukehaiti.org/watch

To learn about St. Louis’ efforts to support St. Luke, visit stlukehaiti.org/stlouis

To contact Wynn Walent about the work in Haiti, please email wynn.walent@stlukehaiti.org