For five years, the St. Michael School and Travis Mills Foundation Walk-athon has steadily grown into a heart-warming fundraiser that annually displays the importance placed on service and kindness at the Augusta school.

Students walk laps around the block of the school, located on Sewall Street, raising money for the foundation and the school through pre-obtained pledges. The event also features an inspirational speech from Mills before the walking begins, and a barbecue lunch at its conclusion, according to a news release from Dave Guthro, communications director, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent distance learning, changes were needed to ensure the event would flourish once again.

According to the release, students will be challenged to perform designated exercises for four days, from Tuesday, May 19 through Friday, May 22, according to Kevin Cullen, principal at St. Michael. The exercise-thon was kicked off by Mills and Cullen at 9 a.m. Tuesday with a Zoom call on Facebook.

The four-day challenge will have a different theme each day, both in exercise and attire, with the amount of exercise time increasing with the ages of the students:

Tuesday was jumping jacks and star jacks while wearing St. Michael School colors
Wednesday was sit-ups and dancing while wearing “crazy outfits”
Thursday: students’ choice for exercise while wearing the uniform of their favorite team
Friday: run/walk while in patriotic clothing

“Each day, students are asked to take pictures or videos of themselves doing the exercises and post them on the St. Michael School Facebook page,” said Cullen, according to the release. “The suggested donation for each video and picture is a minimum of $5. We are asking school families to share the videos with friends and family and support our students in raising money for this amazing cause. All donations will be split 50/50 between the school and the Travis Mills Foundation.”

Mills, a retired United States Army Staff Sergeant of the 82nd Airborne, is one of only five quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was wounded by an improvised explosive device during his third tour in Afghanistan in 2012. During his recovery, Mills discovered a passion for inspiring fellow wounded servicemen and women. He founded the Travis Mills Foundation, a nonprofit organization, formed to benefit and assist wounded and injured veterans and their families. He has traveled around the country as a motivational speaker, inspiring thousands to overcome life’s challenges and defy odds. In 2015, his book, “Tough as They Come,” was published.

“We will have so much fun this week exercising our bodies and showing support for our veterans,” said Cullen. “I’m so grateful that everyone was enthusiastic to find a way to continue the fundraiser during the pandemic.”

To donate to the exercise-thon, visit stmichaelmaine.weshareonline.org.