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The Rev. Blake Rozier kisses animals after Catholic students exceed fundraising goal

Zoe the pot-bellied pig, Bilbo the gecko and Lilly the toad were just a few of the animals the Rev. Blake Rozier, associate pastor of Brainerd Lakes Catholic Churches in Brainerd, agreed to kiss Friday at St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School.

Rev. Blake Rozier of St. Francis kisses a variety of animals such as Zoe the pig, Bilbo the gecko, Mr. Frodo the turtle and Lilly the toad (shown here) Friday after students from St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School raised close to $65,000 with a raffle. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video)
The Rev. Blake Rozier of St. Francis kisses a variety of animals such as Zoe the pig, Bilbo the gecko, Mr. Frodo the turtle and Lilly the toad (shown here) Friday after students from St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School raised close to $65,000 with a raffle. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video)

Zoe the pot-bellied pig, Bilbo the gecko and Lilly the toad were just a few of the animals the Rev. Blake Rozier, associate pastor of Brainerd Lakes Catholic Churches in Brainerd, agreed to kiss Friday at St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School.

Students filled the school's gymnasium, chanting "kiss the animals" as they waited in anticipation for the animals to walk on stage to get a kiss from Rozier. The kissing event was part of the school's celebration for its annual Catholic Schools Raffle fundraiser.

The students were challenged to raise $50,000 with the raffle, and if they did, Rozier agreed to kiss any animal that came through the school's doors, as long as they were not dangerous. The students went above and beyond the goal and raised $64,870.

"They raised $64,870 so I had to kiss a lot of animals," Rozier said. "I was hoping not to kiss a snake or bat. The worst animal was a turtle because I didn't want to kiss the shell because I didn't want the kids to be disappointed. I only had so much to work with and I was worried it may bite me."

Fortunately, none of the animals bit Rozier. He had to kiss a few dogs, a fake deer, a turtle, a toad, a pot-bellied pig, a gecko and more, as the students cheered and laughed.

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"I really am super proud of these kids," said Rozier. "I love this school, it's one of my biggest pluses of being here in Brainerd. This is such a great school community and to be able to raise money for the school is a great thing."

Amy Kalthoff, marketing coordinator at the school, said the Brainerd catholic school, which was one of 87 Catholic schools which sold raffle tickets in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, sold the most raffle tickets of all the schools. Kalthoff said close to 250 students from preschool through eighth grade sold raffle tickets.

"It's unreal and we were shocked in the end when we found out the students sold $64,870," said Kalthoff. "Last year they sold around $53,000. They went way beyond our goal. They really sold a lot in the last two weeks."

Before the kissing began, the Rev. Brandon Moravitz, who formerly served in Brainerd, made a special appearance to visit the students and to watch Rozier kiss the animals.

The Rev. Tony Wroblewski, pastor at Brainerd Lakes Catholic Churches, then brought up a huge homemade lip balm tube and told Rozier he may need it after kissing the animals.

"You have to have a little fun," Wroblewski said. "He has been teased about needing ChapStick after kissing all these animals so the principal and I thought we'd have a little fun."

Wroblewski said one of the things the nonprofit school has to do is raise money. He said the students have participated in the annual Catholic Schools Raffle for years. He said one of the parishioners was the winner of $25,000 or a new car.

Wroblewski said the students were really motivated to sell raffle tickets as they wanted to see Rozier kiss animals.

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"The bottom line here is to make this school the great success it is," said Wroblewski.

Students sold $5 raffle tickets during a six-week period and all the schools collectively raised $1,019,695, with the proceeds to go to all the schools to use for any need the school faces.

Catholic United Financial covers all of the Catholic Schools Raffle's cost and provides incentives to the top ticket seller and classroom at each school and the top schools among the whole field.

The schools have raised more than $4 million for Catholic schools in the three states since 2009.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at jennifer.stockinger@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl .

For more photos go to http://goo.gl/XqnYuy

Related Topics: ST. FRANCIS OF THE LAKES
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