Fieldhouse of Dreams, Kosciusko by Choice receive awards at KLA graduation

By David Slone

NORTH WEBSTER – Though all the Kosciusko Leadership Academy white paper projects were considered good this year, only two teams were able to receive an award to help get the projects moving forward.

The monetary awards were announced Tuesday night at the 41st graduation celebration for the KLA Class of 2023 at The Owl’s Nest in North Webster.

Kosciusko County Community Foundation CEO Stephanie Overbey said the Community Foundation holds the KLA Northenor Fund. Each year, the fund awards a grant to KLA that enables KLA to make a cash award to a winning white paper project. The fund was established in 2007 and made possible from gifts by many KLA supporters who wished to honor Jean Northenor, a KLA co-founder.

“It was meant to really rise the level of the white paper projects with an incentive to produce something that is sustainable, that can be accomplished, that we have seed money, which is really exciting,” Overbey said.

This year, $1,893 was available for the Northenor Award from the fund. Because the fund is endowed at the Foundation, Overbey said it will produce an award every single year for forever “so KLA can never stop because otherwise, what would we do with the funding?”

Before KLA moderator Dr. Allyn Decker presented the Northenor Award, Overbey presented the $1,000 Trustee Award on behalf of Suzie Light, a KLA trustee.

“The Trustee Award is given to a white paper team who the KLA trustees feel deserve an award to move their project forward as well,” Overbey said. “This year’s award was made possible by a trustee who recommended a grant from a donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation.”

She said the project was chosen because of the impact “this large-scale capital project could have on the health, well-being and economy of Kosciusko County. The trustees felt that Grace College’s application to Lilly Endowment for the implementation of the project showed a commitment to getting the project done and real promise that it might happen. Their hope is that, by receiving the Trustee Award, it would show to Lilly Endowment and to the project team that the project has the support of the community.”

She announced the Trustee Award went to the “Fieldhouse of Dreams” team of Denny Harlan, Chad Hummel, Carol McGregor and Angie Summers.

According to the executive summary of the project, the Fieldhouse of Dreams was proposed as a means to focus on impacting the early years of youth health and wellness development, leading to lifelong habits for individuals, creating an annual economic boost to the county and filling the gap that inclement weather creates for northern Indiana throughout the year. The multi-purpose facility would grant a variety of ways to impact community members through their health and wellness journey. Areas that could create an economic impact could include hosting tournaments/events, creating leagues, opening the facility for outside rentals and establishing new trade shows/conferences.

In presenting the Northenor Award, Decker said the project team was chosen “somewhat on that doability factor, the fact that they were able to get so much done during the course of the academy year. And, also, it had a really, really strong sustainability plan as well.”

He announced the winner of the award was the “Clearly Kosciusko by Choice” team of Logan McDonald, Leo Patino, Jeremy Price and Laura Rothhaar.

To see the stories of people who chose to make their home in Kosciusko County, Rothhaar said the videos can be found on the Clearly Kosciusko website, as well as any of the Visit Kosciusko social media.

The executive summary for Kosciusko by Choice states that it is a marketing campaign highlighting people who have chosen to move to and stay in Kosciusko County. The campaign consists of video interviews and accompanying blog posts which are posted and promoted on a variety of platforms.

The third white paper project was County of Libraries by the team of Morgan Bruner, Dhushyantha Peiris Mulkakandage and Ben Rice. The fourth white paper project was Savor Kosciusko by the team of Dr. Bennett Hollar, Lauren Klusman, Brian Runkel and Josh Silveus.

Early in the graduation ceremony, Decker said the white paper projects have been a part of KLA since the beginning.

“The white papers are our attempt to take what we’ve learned about the county assets, and also some of its challenges, and to think how can we make life in Kosciusko County better. And so, we ask the cadets to join a team to come up with a topic they think is timely and important,” he said. “We offer mini grants in the form of $500, if they choose to apply for one, and that can help provide some working capital during the year.”

Guest speaker for Tuesday’s graduation was Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rob Parker.

Lois Borkholder, a member of the K-County First white paper project that won the Northenor Award in 2022, gave a presentation on what their project was and where it’s going forward. Her teammates included Kim Strawbridge, Mitchell Hall, Orville Haney and herself.

Borkholder said the idea for K-County First came out of a need expressed by Live Well Kosciusko Executive Director Lisa Harman and the Live Well Kosciusko Community Well-Being Committee for Kosciusko County residents and organizations to have a platform to show appreciation to the first responders who take care of everyone, often at the risk of their own lives.

Decker, along with the board of directors, presented the diplomas to the KLA graduates before the awards presentation.

An independent 501(c)3 organization, KLA conducts biweekly morning sessions around the county to expose future community leaders to a wide variety of local topics and experts.