Hodag Schools Foundation, school administrators approve $500,000 donation for indoor sports facility
Star Journal Report
The School District of Rhinelander Board of Education approved an agreement that was announced in December with Hodag Schools Foundation (HSF) and Dr. Lee Swank Monday night that will direct Swank’s $500,000 pledge toward indoor activity facility improvements. Swank told the school board that he feels “very fortunate to be in a position where I can do something positive for the school and the community.”
Multiple facility options are being explored as HSF and the school district administration review potential upgrades that will best accommodate year-round needs, as well as what other donations HSF might facilitate to help in the improvements.
“With Rhinelander’s unpredictable spring weather, an indoor facility here would help teams get off to a great start,” Swank said.”In addition, this kind of facility could be an asset to the community, helping draw new families to the area and providing a space for senior citizens and the community to use year-round due to the inclement weather during the winter.”
Dr. Swank, a long-time physician at Ascension, and his wife Judy moved to Rhinelander in the 1980’s. Small town values and outdoor living were priorities in the move.
“We looked at many places in Wisconsin, in the southern and central part of the state, but my wife kept saying we had to have a place up north,” Swank noted. “We were familiar with the community. We were familiar with all the communities around the area, but because of what Rhinelander had to offer, we chose Rhinelander.”
He is an avid outdoor enthusiast known for biking, skiing, and enjoying the outdoors. However, his passion to make this donation did not come from what he saw outdoors, but what he did not see indoors.
“I’ve always felt that the most important thing we can do is educate our kids, and I was concerned by the fact that the kids did not have a place to do spring activities,” Swank said. “I read in the paper that the kids were practicing in the hallways, the gym, and classrooms due to the short spring. I know that other communities in the area have indoor facilities; I thought that Rhinelander should have one too.”
HSF president Dave Heck said the organization is appreciative of the Swank family and their donation and all the foundation’s donors.
“It provides options for year-round activities, which are often limited by the weather in northern Wisconsin,” Heck said. “There have been so many disruptions for fall, winter and spring activities, [such as] field problems, students practicing until late at night, which affects grades and family life, all due to lack of space and year round facilities. We have had interest from other donors to help, our goal is to work the School District on options and raise more money to be able to help provide options for year-round multi-purpose space.”