Students and faculty at St. Damian Elementary School in Oak Forest celebrate the news Thursday that the school won $50,000 in U.S. Cellular's "Calling All Communities" contest. | Supplied photo
Updated: December 3, 2012 6:37AM
Students and faculty at St. Damian Elementary School in Oak Forest had just finished Mass for All Saints Day on Thursday when school Principal Colleen Domke was told she was urgently needed in the hallway.
Although a bit irked because she had other things to attend to, she complied. Stepping into the hallway, Domke was greeted by representatives of mobile phone service company U.S. Cellular, toting balloons and an oversize check for $50,000.
Domke, faculty and students learned St. Damian was among 17 schools around the nation that were runners-up in U.S. Cellular’s “Calling All Communities” campaign. A school in Tennessee won the top prize of $150,000.
Just four Illinois schools were among the winners, and all are in the Southland. Apart from St. Damian, other local schools each receiving $50,000 were St. Michael School in Orland Park, Columbia Central School in Steger and Aqsa Islamic School in Bridgeview.
St. Damian rallied support from church members and the community to solicit votes, and tapped friends at Cardinal Joseph Bernardin School in Orland Hills, which was a $50,000 winner last year, for tips on mounting a successful campaign, said Domke, whose niece and nephew attend Bernardin.
She said the money will go toward new technology at the school, including replacing some outdated laptop computers. It was the first year the school had participated in the contest, which U.S. Cellular launched in 2008. The company said 1,368 schools across the country competed this year.
“We had a lot of help from (St. Damian) church,” Domke said. “We were contacting everybody, asking them, ‘Please stop by the stores, please go online’ ” to vote.
St. Damian parishioners packed a bus and made daily treks to U.S. Cellular stores, picking up voting cards. The cards contained a code that needed to be typed into an online voting form, Domke said.
“We got the seniors on board and hooked them up with computers” to vote, she said.
While final vote tallies weren’t disclosed by the company, Domke said she believes St. Damian was near the top of the pile. Voting closed Oct. 21.
“We moved very quickly, from (No.) 16, then 11, then 8 and we were at 3 the last four weeks and didn’t seem to budge,” she said.