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baltimoresun.com

Students walk to raise money to help schools in Catonsville and Haiti

By Keith Meisel, kmeisel@tribune.com

11:39 AM EDT, April 22, 2012

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With the sun shining, the music blaring and the students smiling, St. Agnes School hosted its third annual fundraising walk on the school's St. Agnes Lane campus Friday afternoon.

"This is a big event," said first-year program chairwoman Alison Hewitt, who has two children at the Catholic school, as students lined up on the school parking lot before setting off for laps around the lot and St. Agnes Church on Baltimore National Pike.

The event, spurred by school parent Jane McCaul's visit to Haiti three years ago, raises money for St. Agnes and for St. Peter and St. Paul School in Desdunes, Haiti, according to St. Agnes Principal Susan Banks.

Each of the 279 students in nursery through eighth grade at St. Agnes receives 10 mailing address labels to send requests for sponsorships to parents, grandparents and other family members, Banks said.

Most of the requests are returned pledging $10 to $30, she said.

After a brief prayer and exhortation by Banks, the students stepped off behind a school banner carried by eighth-grader Victoria Graham and seventh-grader Michael Stromberg.

"The students love raising money for the cause and walking around the parking lot to their favorite music. It's really fun," said Graham, a Gwynn Oak resident and student council president at the school.

"The Catholic school (in Haiti) is similar to ours," she said. "They teach them about the Catholic faith."

Graham and her fellow students maintained a steady, lively pace marching around the school parking lot and circling around the church thanks to a steady mix of upbeat tunes that music teacher Dan Baker pumped at high volume through the portable speakers set up on the lot.

"I have the kids make requests in my music class," said Baker, who how he compiled the estimated 1.5 hours of songs available for the hour-long event.

"They really love it," he said. "It's a beautiful day, a chance to be together and I think they appreciate raising money for our school and the school in Haiti."

Stromberg, the student council vice-president and a veteran of the past two walks, said his fellow students aren't just happy to get out of school early on a Friday afternoon and be with their friends outside.

"Our principal has been talking about this for a couple of weeks," he said. "I think they have a good sense of what it is, and that it's not just a reason to get out of school."

The past two events have raised approximately $15,000 that is split between the local school and the one in the Caribbean, according to Banks.

"This year, we're up to $3,000 and I still have a stack (of pledges) that I have not opened up," she said.