Catholic academy passes halfway point in fund drive

DANVILLE — Several weeks into Schlarman Academy's first major fundraiser, Catholic school officials announced that they are more than halfway to their $1.5 million goal.

"We're very excited. We have raised $800,000 in a very short period of time," said Suzette Kittell, who is co-chairing the new academy's capital campaign with Raymond Broderick.

"We're amazed by the generosity of parishioners and non-parishioners alike," Kittell continued. "It's not just the parishes and the schools and the alumni that are giving. It's also people who don't have an affiliation with us who believe in what we're doing and who believe in Schlarman Academy."

Called "Our Faith, Our Children, Our Future," the campaign will raise money for tuition assistance and allow officials to address building needs at the academy's elementary campus at 1303 N. Walnut St. and its secondary campus at 2112 N. Vermilion St., both in Danville. The money will also be used to upgrade technology and develop new academic programs at both campuses.

Under a recommendation by the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, Danville's three Catholic schools — Holy Family and St. Paul elementary schools and Schlarman High School — officially united on July 1 in an effort to combine enrollments and resources, reduce operating costs and strengthen the quality of Catholic education in the years to come. The pre-kindergarten- through 12th-grade academy opened in August.

In January, a company was hired to conduct a feasibility study, which showed that Schlarman had the potential to raise $1.5 million through a capital campaign, Principal Bob Rice said. As a result, he added, officials are shifting away from launching a major building expansion at the North Vermilion campus to house all students and staff and instead focusing on improving current buildings and enriching the educational programs.

"Our goal and objective is to strengthen the academy's programs and enrollment and ultimately the community," Rice said, adding a lot of study went into putting together a capital fund-raising plan. "While Catholic education is one of the most important ministries of our local parishes, we want to offer the academy to all who may benefit."

He added the project is more than the buildings.

"It's about what goes on in those buildings," Rice said. "It's about our youth. This project will develop Schlarman as an excellent educational option for families in Vermilion County. And we welcome everyone to become involved and support our goal."

The fund raiser kicked off with a leadership campaign in September, said Janet Picillo, the academy's director of development. She said leaders began holding informational receptions at the five Catholic parishes in Vermilion County and the academy's two campuses this month.

"This has been an opportunity for our parishioners, families and others in the community to hear about the campaign and the project," Picillo said, adding receptions at St. Anthony's in Hoopeston and St. Isaac Jogues in Georgetown will be held on Nov. 6.

"We're also in the process of sending out a large mailing explaining the campaign," she said. "That will be sent to about 4,500 people throughout Vermilion County and a lot of out-of-town alumni and people who have supported us before. So they will be sent out throughout the country."

The campaign will wrap up in mid-November.

While leaders are thrilled with the initial response of pledges and payments, they said they still have a long way to go. But "we're very grateful for the support we've had up to this point," Picillo said. "I think that shows that people think very strongly about keeping this excellent choice of education available in Vermilion County."

Anyone interested in donating can call the academy's development office at 442-1184.

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