Next Wednesday Oct. 9, Cider Mill School, Wilton’s 3rd – 5th grade elementary school, will hold its Fourth Annual Walkathon. The event raises funds for student programs throughout the year. Each student is asked to gather pledges before the Walkathon, and then on the day of the event, all 1,100 students and staff from the four ‘houses’ of Cider Mill walk one mile (four laps) together at the Wilton High School track.

The Walkathon is a fun, fall morning event, with students bundled in sweatshirts, balloons and banners raised, and tunes blaring. Hillary Morrissy, parent of a third-grader, is coordinating the music, with input from families of students.  Morrissy says top picks this year include “Roar” (Katy Perry), “Best Song Ever” (One Direction), and “Cups” (Anna Kendrick).

Cider Mill’s PTA runs the event, which last year raised $41,000. Lisa Smith, in her second year as president of the PTA, explained that proceeds from 2012’s Walkathon not only went to programs such as Visiting Author, Fun Nights, and Field Days, but also funded grants for teachers, helping to support the science department, and sending more technology into classrooms.

Last year, 93 percent of students participated in the Walkathon by turning in pledge forms. In comparison, earlier fundraisers, (e.g. selling wrapping paper), generated 35-40 percent participation rates. Pam Hickey, vice president of fundraising 2010-2012, decided to try something that would involve more students, and came up with the idea for the Walkathon.

This year’s VP of fundraising, Nicola Davies, is carrying on the tradition and says, “The event moved me to tears when I saw it for the first time last year.  One thousand children having such a wonderful time singing and dancing around the track.   It is a rare and powerful thing when a whole community comes together like this.  There was such positive energy on the track that morning.  I’m so proud to be a part of it, and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.”

Each year there is a special theme for the Walkathon, which this year is “Walking on Sunshine.” The school held a contest in May and the winning design, by current fourth grader Jenna Kirincich, was chosen from those entries.

Students who handed in their pledge forms by Sept. 20 will each receive a free 2013 Walkathon t-shirt to wear at the event.

Support for the Walkathon comes from all over, including the Cider Mill administration. For instance, vice-principal Catherine O’Keefe wears the Walkathon t-shirt everyday on bus duty, and led t-shirt raffles at all the lunch shifts on Sept. 18.  In the past, donations have come in from areas far from Wilton, including Florida, Virginia and Wisconsin.

If you know a Cider Mill student, and would like to donate to the school, offer to pledge towards this year’s Walkathon. Anyone who wants to donate can send a check (made out to Cider Mill PTA) to Cider Mill School, 240 School Road, Wilton, CT 06897, Attn:  Walkathon Fundraising.