In its second year as a straight raffle, the fundraiser awarded $27,000 in prize money for 2020-21
By Bill Brewer
Despite ongoing challenges from COVID-19, Diocese of Knoxville schools are off to a healthy start in 2021.
On Jan. 12, winners of the diocesan Catholic Schools annual raffle were drawn, and $27,000 in prize money was given away.
But in addition to that, a 27.5 percent increase in raffle ticket sales was reported, which led to an additional $50,730 for schools and assistance with tuition costs for Catholic education for families. Raffle tickets, which were sold through the schools office and the diocese’s 10 schools from Sept. 1 through Dec. 29, cost $10 each, with $6.50 of each ticket sold going directly back to the participating schools. Remaining proceeds after expenses support the diocese’s Regional Schools Tuition Assistance Funds.
It is the fourth year for the Diocese of Knoxville schools raffle. The first two years involved the sale of calendars and included 365 winners each year. Two years ago, the fundraiser converted to a straight raffle.
Knoxville Catholic High School led all diocesan schools in tickets sold at 5,514, followed by St. Joseph School in Knoxville at 3,287, Sacred Heart Cathedral School at 2,636, and St. Jude School in Chattanooga at 2,363.
St. Joseph led all schools in the average number of tickets sold per student at 13.9, followed by St. Dominic School in Kingsport at 12.4, St. Mary School in Oak Ridge at 10.7, and KCHS at 8.5.
KCHS recorded the largest increase in tickets sold year over year at 1,882, followed by Sacred Heart at 1,479, St. Jude at 454, and St. Mary-Oak Ridge at 394.
KCHS led in money raised for the school at $35,074, followed by St. Joseph at $20,285, St. Jude at $15,509, and Sacred Heart at $15,223.
Dr. Sedonna Prater, superintendent of diocesan schools, and Father Chris Michelson, pastor of St. Albert the Great Parish in Knoxville and president of St. Joseph School, led sales went well.
“We were up about 25 percent in tickets sales this year. We sold just a little over 23,500 tickets, which is $235,000 in tickets. By the time you take expenses and the prize money out, it’s about $180,000 this year for Catholic schools,” Father Michelson said.
According to Dr. Prater, 5,073 more tickets were sold in 2020 than in 2019. She said $135,220 has been directly returned to diocesan schools, and approximately $55,000 is being distributed to the Regional Tuition Assistance Funds.
“The schools have done a great job getting the word out to everyone. People from all over are finding that this is an easy way to support our schools,” Dr. Prater said, pointing out that a larger percentage of proceeds from the raffle goes directly to the schools, with the remainder going to the Chattanooga regional fund, the Knoxville regional fund, and the Tri-Cities schools.
Dr. Prater said the diocese is experiencing positive results from the raffle proceeds and the funds available through the tuition assistance funds to help families with Catholic school students.
“We’re seeing a tangible difference. We’re seeing an increase in students. Our schools have accepted students in January that they didn’t have last fall,” she said.
She pointed out that many of the new students are from public school systems, noting that St. Joseph School is at capacity, with only a few classes available for any additional students.
“At St. Joseph, our biggest problem is we’re full. Unless you’re in the right class we can’t accept any more students,” Father Michelson said. “I know how important the money going into the regional (Knoxville) fund is. The way I look at it is if 10, 15, or 20 more kids can get a Catholic education, then that is wonderful. It gets divided for so many children who are in need out there.”
Father Michelson said there is a direct correlation between the increasing tuition assistance funds and the rising number of students in diocesan schools. Dr. Prater noted that in some diocesan schools upward of 75 percent of students receive tuition assistance, with the average being 50 percent.
“Every school has picked up new students in January, and we didn’t lose any students,” Dr. Prater added.
In addition, the number of applications for the 2021-22 academic year already has increased, she said.
Father Michelson and Dr. Prater are grateful for other sources of funding for Catholic education, such as tithing from all parishes; St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation grants, which totaled $250,000 in the 2020-21 academic year; annual raffle proceeds; direct donations; and the annual second collection.
Dr. Prater said this academic year $5.2 million has been given out to all 10 diocesan schools from the Regional Tuition Assistance Funds, with the schools in addition giving out more than $1 million. On top of that, Notre Dame High School distributed $860,000.
“I think Catholic education is critical to the future of the Catholic Church. We form the whole child—mind, heart, and spirit. We teach them Christian values. Catholic schools give their students the best opportunity for success in life and hopefully in becoming saints,” Dr. Prater said. “It’s so much more than math, science, and reading. Catholic education is guided by the Gospel teaching of Christ. It’s the intangible of faith, the caring for others, discipline. We’re very inclusive and welcoming of all faiths. Catholic education is not just for Catholics.”
Father Michelson said the raffle results, with an increase in proceeds for the tuition assistance funds and the participating schools, show what an asset the raffle has become. He said the diocese already has its application into the state to hold a raffle again later this year.
“We’ve put in $593,751 to the schools through the four years of doing the raffle,” he said. “That’s pretty impressive that we’ve provided almost $600,000 to the schools. That’s significant.”