I Walked — But Not Alone

A look back at the Friars’ “Walkathon” 40 school years ago, when 900+ students walked 15 miles – at about $2.50 per mile – to help pay for renovations to the Fenwick gym.

“Oak Chips” by Harriet Vrba
(column originally published in the Oak Leaves, October 8, 1980)

I put on my loafers and went walking Friday, accompanied by some 900 students of Fenwick High School.

Fenwick held its first Walkathon that day, and I predict it won’t be the last. The jaunt kicked off the school’s homecoming weekend and, at the same time, raised a nice sum to help pay for the new gymnasium.

The morning of the walk was cloudy and cool. Every once in a while the sun smiled down on the walkers. And occasionally a cloud wept.

When I started the trek, which bordered much of Oak Park and River Forest, the hikers were filled with enthusiasm and raring to go. That spirit stayed with them.

The Class of ’84 raised the most money.

I DROPPED OUT after the first mile or so, retraced my steps and watched the last bunch of walkers step off.

After completing the 15-mile circuit, the students still had enough energy to spend on a boisterous pep rally.

Walkers were hoping to collect approximately $2.50 a mile.

Fortunately, the young hikers had such generous backers that the Walkathon brought the school $56,000 instead of the hoped-for goal of $39,000.

Thanks to good friends, Steve Bory of Monroe Av., River Forest, a freshman, received the largest contributions for his efforts. Bory raised $1,225, an equivalent of $81.66 for each mile he walked.

Students stop at a check point.

THE FRESHMAN CLASS topped the school with $19,000.

Several teachers accompanied the students on the brisk hike. Terry Buckley took his 4-year-old malamute on the circuit. Sister Mary Meegan of the religion department changed her shoes three times.

When it was all over, principal Father William Bernacki breathed a sigh of relief. And smiled.

Homecoming weekend kept lots of villagers busy.

Saturday afternoon the Rev. Malachy Dooley, director of development and alumni affairs for the Dominican high school, and Leo J. Latz, assistant director, spent a few hours chopping up pieces of the old gym floor and shaping the wood into small blocks which sold for $25 each.

(All photos from 1981 Blackfriars yearbook.)

A LEGEND WAS attached to each block, explaining why the old gym floor means so much to the alumni.

In part, it said, “I am part of a noble and glorious tradition. Thousands played, prayed and paid on me. I am the Fenwick gym floor.”

Those who love that much-used floor added, “Born Nov. 23, 1929. Died Aug. 12, 1980. Rest in Peace.”

At half-time period of the homecoming football game which Fenwick lost to Loyola by two points Saturday, 11 members of Fenwick’s first football team, who played 50 years ago, gathered on the field. The late Tony Lawless had been their coach. Later the 11, seven of whom still live in either Oak Park or River Forest, were honored at a reception at the school.

They are Bob and Ray McGrath, Ed Muholland, Bob Collins, Dr. Arthur Wise, Frank McShane, W.A. Brandt, Vince Dierkes, Bob Hanson, Jack Hardin, John Lilly and Andrew McElligatt.

Dierkes said he couldn’t remember against which school the first team played its first game 50 years ago. “But I do remember we lost.”

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