On Sunday, September 25, the six Catholic schools in the Portland metro area came together to participate in the ninth annual Walk for Joy event. In a show of solidarity and compassion, high school students worked to raise funds for JoyRx and raise awareness of pediatric cancer during the month of September.
Over 500 students from Jesuit, Central Catholic, Saint Mary’s, Valley Catholic, De La Salle North Catholic, and La Salle, alongside their friends and family, participated in the event. Decked out in their purple gear, participants walked from set starting points and gathered at Sellwood Riverfront Park for an inter-school mass.
Together, the students raised over $64,000 to fund customized programs – JoyRx Music, JoyRx Mentorship, and JoyRx Nature – which use Joy as a powerful immune system enhancer.
It was a warm September day as the students walked. Spirits were high and all around Sellwood Riverfront Park, students ducked between strips of shade to stay cool, wore purple, and laughed together.
There were many powerful moments during Walk for Joy.
Joey Webb, a junior at Jesuit, spoke to the crowd about her sister, Bianca Sarich, and her experience with cancer. It was an inspiring story and one that demonstrated the reason why so many students fundraise for this event.
There was even a surprise visit from the Jesuit Choir, who arrived during mass to perform songs for the gathered crowd.
Through the Joy, there were also moments of quiet and solidarity to acknowledge those who couldn’t be there. Two teenage girls, Kamryn and Mia, have recently passed away from cancer and their friends and fellow students took turns writing messages of love and support on posters dedicated to them.
This event’s success is all because of the students, many of whom have been personally touched by pediatric cancer.
For the last twenty-three years, Jesuit High School has hosted this fundraiser for JoyRx which has evolved to Walk for Joy today. For the last eight years, other local Catholic high schools have become involved – growing the impact of this event.
A committee of students from each of these schools, along with staff advisors, begin planning the walk in August and spearhead the logistics themselves. Each school has a fundraising base, with students creating their own fundraising pages to share with family and friends. Some schools will find alternate ways to fundraise, too, such as kickball tournaments, carnivals, bake sales, and so on.
New this year is the addition of a community hero award given to an outstanding student leader from each school. Jack Pipkin, JoyRx Vice President of Development, announced the Paul Hogan Community Award named in honor of former Jesuit HS principal and key Joymaker, Paul Hogan.
Each school will nominate a student who was an active leader in the Walk for Joy and embodies the spirit of JoyRx. Students will be selected this fall and presented the award in the spring.
Overall, it was clear that the students enjoyed being together and connecting with friends from other schools. The last song at the mass, “Go Make a Difference,” felt appropriate for the group of students who want to serve the community and support other teens.
And the giving doesn’t stop now even with the event concluded!
Walk For Joy is still taking donations to help spread awareness and build critical funds for JoyRx programs. Even now, students are collecting donations when they can – between classes, during lunch, after school.
Students can still take donations through October 31. To support them or to donate, contact Anne Robinson at ARobinson@JoyRx.org.