What is it like walking in someone else’s shoes? This is a concept that Santa Catalina School asks their students to consider as they discover the importance of empathy and making a difference in the lives of others. So it makes sense that when this tight-knit community was first introduced to JDRF fifteen years ago, they took action and created the Walk team Santa Catalina Cougars Care. Since then, they have walked for current students, alumni, and parents who live with type 1 diabetes (T1D). “The incentive to walk for members of our community has shaped the way our students learn about T1D,” says Jeremy Sandler, Walk Team Captain, and English Teacher, Grades 5-7. “The passionate participation is due to our school’s emphasis on service.” Over the years, the team has grown to be one of the largest and most productive in the area.
At the beginning of each school year, a few weeks before the JDRF One Walk – Monterey Peninsula, the school holds a Kickoff at their Lower and Middle School assemblies. They invite speakers who live with T1D to share their experiences, and explain why JDRF and the Walk are so important to them. “Moreover, JDRF has been terrific in providing resources and materials that elaborate on the personal stories,” says Jeremy.
“Our Walk in Monterey is successful due in large part to enthusiastic teams like Santa Catalina Cougars Care. They take it very seriously but also learn from the fundraising experience and have fun giving back. They truly do live up to their name,” says Heather Jenkins, JDRF One Walk Manager.
Participating in the Walk builds school spirit and unifies their community for an important cause. But there is also a little friendly competition to inspire fundraising. Small rewards are given to students who attend the Walk, such as a “free dress” day on the following Monday. The students are also motivated by “The Golden Shoe,” a trophy given to the class with the highest percentage of walkers. “While these incentives are great to offer, they are not the most instrumental reasons why the Walk brings us together,” says Jeremy. “The JDRF One Walk is often our first service project of the school year. The entire school community wishes to start our year of service projects with a lot of passion and energy.”
The students, teachers, and other team members enjoy getting together off campus at Lovers Point Park on Walk Day. It’s fun for them to create memories outside of school and interact with other Walk participants and volunteers. The day is a celebration of their hard work and the impact they make on the lives of those who face T1D every day. “The JDRF One Walk embodies the significance and action of service that we teach our students. Our school’s brand promise, ‘Do Well. Do Good.’ also personifies our involvement,” says Jeremy. “We want to do well with raising money and attending the Walk, and we want to do good by supporting this cause, helping others, and making service come to life.”