top of page

St. Joachim School raises more than $2,500 toward Ukraine relief efforts

For The Madera Tribune

St. Joachim School student body president Eli Sablan presents the check to the Knights of Columbus Deputy Grand Knight Joseph Sanchez. With Sablan are Father Shaji and Arianna Castro.


In a world that often seems wracked with problems that are simply to large to fix, one local school is doing what they can with what they have for those in need.

The students and staff at St. Joachim School wanted to do something to help the citizens of Ukraine. Fifth grade teacher Nancy Shearer approached principal Heather Forcey with the idea of offering students a chance to pay $5 to wear free dress with the money raised going towards relief aid.

“I had concern for the refugees coming out of the Ukraine and wanted to see what we could do to help those in need,” said Shearer. “As a Catholic School teacher, we are continually teaching the students about social justice, and I truly wanted to do something as a school to teach the students that we can make a difference in our own way.”

Shearer said that a fundraiser like this was conducted at a previous school where she taught and was very successful.

“I then called the local Knights of Columbus leader for St. Joachim Church to see if they could help with the effort,” said Shearer. “I saw on my news feed that the national Knights of Columbus organization was giving money to this disaster, and I wondered if the local chapter might be able to help us.”

The local chapter agreed to match up to $500 in funds, and that new amount would be matched again at the national level.

Principal Forcey was immediately receptive to the idea and a flyer was created and a date was set the very next week for the free dress day.

“As a Catholic School, the students at St. Joachim wear a uniform each day,” said Forcey. “It is a special treat to have a free dress day. The students love being able to express themselves with their own unique outfits.”

The teachers began speaking to the students in their classes about the way in which they could help Ukrainians. The students and families were immediately interested, some going above and beyond in their efforts.

“There were several cases of families donating far more than the $5 asked for their child to wear the free dress,” explained Forcey. “One parent contacted the school asking if they could donate for their child’s entire class to wear the free dress. That parent generously gave over $100, along with whatever the students had already brought in to help those in need.”

One fifth grade student, Arianna Castro, also contributed to the cause in a big way. She asked the principal if she could do a bake sale at school and donate all the money raised to the effort.

“Unfortunately, due to some restrictions that we are still under from COVID, I couldn’t allow Arianna to bring in baked goods from home,” said Forcey. “I told her that I would love for her to think of another approach, and that is exactly what she did!”

“At first I heard about the effort and I thought, ‘Oh, I want to raise money because it is a good thing to do,’” said Castro. “I went home and told my dad and we went to the store. I wanted to sell lemonade at first, but my dad said no. Then my sister and suggested that we well cookies, and my dad said we could sell them at his work.”

Castro and her family made more than 50 dozen chocolate chip and white chocolate cranberry cookies that they sold to the employees at Madera Community Hospital.

“It was a long three days of baking,” said Castro. “I wanted to do this because we were raising money and I wanted to help the people of Ukraine as much as I could. In some ways we can’t help them, but in other ways we can.”

Castro said the she wants to grow up to be a business woman and work with her sister, who loves baking. They plan to start a small baking business to sell baked goods during holidays.

The school children brought in a total of $1,885 through their free dress day. Castro contributed $635 more dollars to the fundraiser for a total of $2,520 that was donated to the Knights of Columbus to be matched before being sent directly towards aid in Ukraine.

“The generosity of the parents and students at St. Joachim School often overwhelms me,” said Forcey. “This community time and again shows their spirit and dedication to their faith through their actions and efforts. Raising over $2,500 in one week speaks to the open hearts that I am blessed to be surrounded by each day.”


bottom of page