School Spotlight: Support Ravenswood Students’ Walk-a-Thon for the Arts

By Patty Wetli | Monday, May 14, 2012

Students participate in last year's Ravenswood Walk-a-Thon. Credit: Courtesy of Friends of Ravenswood School

Ravenswood Elementary, 4332 N. Paulina St., is designated a Fine and Performing Arts Magnet Cluster School by CPS. “You know what comes along with that?” asks Natalie Waechter, parent of three students and a member of Friends of Ravenswood School (FORS). In terms of curriculum expectations: plenty. In terms of funding from CPS: “Nothing.”

That’s why you’ll see the school’s youngest pupils — pre-K through third grade — out walking this Wednesday, May 16, as part of the Third Annual Walk-a-Thon for Ravenswood School. The entire event takes place on the school’s playground, so, yea, no street closures (we’re looking at you, Ravenswood Run).

The fundraiser is one of several that FORS holds each year to drum up financial support for the school’s programming — picking up the tab for everything from field trips to photocopying services. Spring Forward, the group’s showcase event, has netted close to $70,000 over the past two years. A highly competitive, adults-only dodgeball tournament brought in another $5,000 in 2012, and the fourth- through eighth-graders jump-roped their little legs off last fall to the tune of $2,500.

“It’s very grassroots,” says Waechter. Her goal this year is for the Walk-a-Thon to pull in $15,000, more than double last year’s haul of $6,000. “I’d be very happy with $10,000,” she says. (As of press time, donations stood at $7,000).

The funds will go toward purchasing equipment and supplies needed for the school’s music, drama and art programs, including a new theater curtain and a sound system. Last year, FORS kicked in for 30 computers when Ravenswood was asked by CPS to pilot online MAP testing, only to discover the school’s existing models couldn’t accommodate the necessary software.

Waechter’s husband had the idea to economize by obtaining the individual component parts on the cheap (after receiving technical requirements from CPS), and Ravenswood middle schoolers assembled the computers with an assist from students at DeVry University. “They built 30 computers over two weekends,” says Waechter. “The kids loved it.”

With schools scrambling to find dollars to plug CPS’ perpetual budget cutbacks, such creative solutions have become the norm. Which brings us back to the Walk-a-Thon.

The kids will walk for 60 minutes in two groups: the first sets out at 9:30 a.m. and the second at 1:15 p.m. Water stations mimic the atmosphere of grown-up events like the Chicago Marathon; cheering sections are not only allowed but encouraged.

For the first time, Ravenswood is collecting donations online, making it easier for members of the community (like, oh, maybe Mayor Emanuel, whose kids expressly don’t attend Ravenswood) to sponsor a classroom, student or just pledge a couple bucks.

“We’ve got to get the community involved,” says Waechter. When the school was threatened with losing it arts programs a few years ago, residents gladly signed petitions to save the classes from the axe. “Nobody said no.”

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