Students spread cheer with a 10 spot

Students at All Souls School learned that with a $10 bill they could spread cheer and a helping hand to even the most needy.

Eighth-graders at the Englewood school were given a summer assignment: to use a small amount of seed money and make the world a better place.

William Santino, 13, shared his love of piano and played for hours on the 16th Street Mall downtown.01

He spent $10 to make posters and seek donations from those who stopped to listen. The $58 he raised was donated to House of Hope, a homeless shelter for women and children in Englewood.

“I learned it feels really good to help people,” Santino said. “You don’t have to spend much time or money and you can turn that into a lot.”

The middle school’s religion teacher, Cheryl Prevot, started the project after a parent’s suggestion. She wanted students to put their faith in action and use ingenuity in the process.

“We hoped that they could see how they could make a difference, see how taking a small amount of money could grow or be used to help others,” she said. “The kids are already expected to do some service. But this was above and beyond that in that they also had to be creative.”

Jada Chavez and her classmate Mackenzie Golas partnered and spent $20 on birthday party decorations. With 100 balloons, four rolls of streamers, cards, candles and cupcakes, they walked into Craig Hospital in Englewood to give patients a memorable birthday party.

The impact they had was far greater than the money they spent.

“We decorated a room and we got all the people whose birthday was that month in the room and we talked to them and played board games,” Golas said. “They all had smiles on their face and they seemed really happy.”

Many of the patients who suffered spinal cord and brain injuries did not have family nearby with whom they could celebrate.

“Just the smallest things can make people more happy and feel better,” Chavez said.

Fellow eighth-graders Katie Marcoux and Stefanie Frederickson wanted to raise money to benefit the Dumb Friends League.

They started a dog walking and washing business. Throughout the summer they washed and groomed neighbors’ dogs for $20 and charged $5 for a 30 minute-walk. They raised $410 and donated it.

“It was really fun,” Marcoux said. “My friend and I got to spend time together and we knew our service was helping a lot of people.”

Several other students devised ways to raise money for the All Souls Food Bank.

Andrew Seaman organized a Cornhole tournament for his family and friends. Players threw bean bags toward a board 22 feet away and aimed for the hole in the middle. He collected $4 from each team and awarded the winners $10. He earned $70, which he used to buy groceries at King Soopers and donated to the food bank.

“I learned that it feels really good to help other people in need,” Seaman said.

Colton Ramsey also bought $200 worth of groceries and donated to the same food bank. He raised the money by mowing and watering his neighbor’s lawn while they were out of town.

Tony Gervasini and a classmate spent several weekends selling lemonade, popsicles and water. He donated the $100 raised and gave it to the Kmart layaway program for students in need of school supplies.

In total, the eighth-grade class raised $1,860 to benefit charities including the Denver Rescue Mission, Catholic Charities, Children’s Hospital, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Bicycles for Humanity, the Alzheimer’s Association and more.

“They were all so proud of the services they did and they took it seriously,” Prevot said. “They learned that they really could make a difference with just something so small.”

COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.

Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.