By Bria Ellis and Jasmin Suknanan
Eileen Kilbride’s face was as red as the light on the police car that blocked off the road. She embellished her neck with a gold medal dangling from a striped green and yellow ribbon. Hoots and hollers erupted from the sea of mothers, fathers and children who congregated around the stage Kilbride stood on, grinning from ear to ear. Kilbride hopped down from the stage and vanished into the waves of applause after being named the fastest runner in the 5k over 70.
On Saturday, March 25, St. Joseph’s School in Garden City partnered with the Tomorrow’s Hope Foundation to organize a 5k Run to provide financial aid for students pursuing a Catholic education. The event had 812 runners and raised $18,000.
In 2012, the Diocese of Rockville Centre closed six Catholic elementary schools in Long Island due to declining enrollment. The diocese currently has 47 Catholic grammar schools and 10 high schools across Long Island.
The need for financial aid to keep students enrolled has increased from 17 percent to 25 percent in the past 10 years for students in grades 1-12, according to reports from the National Association of Independent Schools. In addition there has been an increase in demand for financial aid, which greatly influenced the importance of organizations like Tomorrow’s Hope Foundation.
“Our mission is to provide scholarship aid and program support to the Catholic schools across Long Island,”Katie Bill, Director of Development at the Tomorrow’s Hope Foundation, said. Tomorrow’s Hope Foundation provides roughly $1.6 million in aid per year and has helped up to 1,800 Long Island students attend Catholic schools. In the past year alone, 128 families new families have received aid from Tomorrow’s Hope Foundation.
“The race began two years ago as a celebration for the 75th anniversary of this school,” Mike Spinelli, director of the event, said. “My children go to the school and we put on a small event, about 200 runners. But it caught the attention of Tomorrow’s Hope and we have grown the event.”
Sacred Heart Academy was proud to show their support and gratitude for Catholic education by attending the 5k run. “Events for the Catholic community are important because they remind us how many other people share our values and morals,” Kristin Lynch Graham, President of Long Island’s Sacred Heart Academy, said. “They energize us and bond us even more tightly in our shared dedication to Catholic values.”
The 5k brought families together from Brooklyn to Suffolk County. “It’s all about living off faith and running with Jesus and I believe we do that every day in the Catholic schools,” Kilbride, former principal of St. Joseph’s, said.
Since its founding in 2005, Tomorrow’s Hope Foundation has raised over $22 million to support around 18,000 families.