This February, every student at all-girls’ Sacred Heart High School in Lincoln Heights received an iPad, part of a pilot program funded by Catholic Education Foundation donor, Jack Blumenthal, who teaches math and science using iPad technology at all-girls’ Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena.

Blumenthal and his wife, Susan, were among 69 CEF contributors being honored for achieving “milestone” status in their continuous support ranging from five to 25 years, along with several recognized as “million dollar donors,” at CEF’s annual donor appreciation luncheon held March 26 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels’ Plaza Center.

“We are gathered to celebrate our mutual love of the children and teens of greater Los Angeles,” said Denise Martin, CEF’s executive director. “We endorse their right to choose their education, especially a Catholic education. And, we join with over 800 CEF donors who, this year, are demonstrating their passion for excellent, values-derived learning for every child by contributing well over $6.5 million to-date.”

Founded by Cardinal Roger Mahony in 1987 as a charitable trust, CEF has raised a total of $151 million in tuition assistance awards over the past 27 years, funding 52,000 students. The foundation annually evaluates 18,000 applications and, this year, funded $13,528,560 in tuition assistance awards to 9,700 elementary and high school students attending Catholic schools in the archdiocese.

“It is a great blessing that we have the Catholic Education Foundation in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,” said Archbishop José Gomez, adding that Pope Francis recently declared Catholic education to be an essential part of the evangelization ministry of the church.

“It is my dream, and I think it’s part of what we, the Catholic bishops of the United States have said, that every single parent should have the opportunity to send their kids to Catholic schools,” said the archbishop.

Noting that it’s the responsibility of the entire Catholic community to make Catholic schools “available, accessible and affordable,” he pointed out that CEF is making a Catholic education more possible to many more people in the archdiocese.

“It’s one of my priorities,” added Archbishop Gomez, “and I think it’s important for the present and future of the Catholic Church and also for our country, because what we give the young men and women who come to Catholic schools is just a beautiful vision and understanding of the human person and our society. So, I think it is important for all of us to continue to joyfully participate in the beauty of Catholic schools.”

“Your dollars have made a huge difference in the lives of so many young people in our community,” said CEF’s board of trustees president, Tim Smith, following a stirring performance by members of Transfiguration School’s drumline corps and dancers, many of whom are CEF recipients.

“Equally important,” Smith added, “your express belief in the Catholic Education Foundation and our schools so much inspires so many others to become involved in this very worthwhile endeavor. We can’t thank you enough for that as well.”

“I think CEF is an organization that has demonstrated its ability to be very efficient in the way it uses the dollars we give, distributing money very efficiently across the archdiocese to students in need,” said Brad Myers, a senior program officer at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, a founding donor of CEF and among the million dollar donors recognized at the luncheon.

Wendy Garen, president and CEO of the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, another million dollar donor, also praised CEF’s commitment to helping low-income children attend Catholic schools. “Since the 1980s, the Parsons Foundation has really been focused on education as a civil right, and the Catholic schools have demonstrated over time that they really help to meet the needs of disadvantaged families, providing a choice for strong educational outcomes, so we’ve been very privileged to be part of that process,” said Garen.

“I contribute because Catholic schools are a great bargain for kids, especially kids in the inner city who need a good education,” said Jennifer Caspar, founder of Eric’s Kids, which funds 23 high-risk elementary students who have lost one or both parents through CEF’s SOS (Save Our Students) program.

Caspar, who founded Eric’s Kids as a way to “pay it forward” after the strong support she and her two daughters received from the St. Paul School community in Westwood following the death of her husband, told The Tidings she wants other children to have the same loving care.

“We want to put students in that kind of environment if they’ve had that kind of death in the family or enable them to stay in that kind of environment if [they lose a parent] and they can’t pay the tuition anymore,” explained Caspar.

Evelyn Rickenbacker, principal of Transfiguration School who accompanied the student performers along with Father Michael Tang, pastor, expressed her gratitude for what CEF has done and what it continues to do for Catholic education.

“I think Catholic schools are [among] the few institutions where you can still teach morals and values to children [and] parents send their children to our school because of those morals and values,” said Rickenbacker, noting that about 50 percent of Transfiguration’s students are not Catholic.

“We can talk about forgiveness and we can talk about living as a model of faith like Jesus, and that’s important to our families. That’s why Catholic schools continue to be important in the community and viable institutions.”