By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — As familiar faces strode to the stage during the Chiefs Watch party Oct. 4 I found myself matching those faces to names of famous Kansas City Chiefs from my much, much younger days, and I wasn’t the only one. Linebacker Bobby Bell, kicker Jan Stenerud, tight ends Keith Cash and Walter White, nose tackle Ken (Fuzzy) Kremer, defensive ends David Lindstrom and Bill Maas and wide receiver Chris Penn, all Chiefs Ambassadors, played music, sang, worked the auction during commercial breaks and made sure the crowd was involved in the watching and the bidding. And of course, KC Wolf did his part.
The official welcomes were from John Dorsey and Bishop designate James V. Johnston, Jr., who will be installed as Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph on Nov. 4 on video. Jeremy Lillig, managing director of the Bright Futures Fund, also welcomed the Chiefs fans.
Held in the View room at the Courtyard Marriot Hotel in Briarcliff, North Kansas City, the annual Chiefs Watch Party highlights Catholic education, Chiefs football and benefits the schools of the diocesan Bright Futures Fund — Our Lady of Angels, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Holy Cross schools, and as of this year, St. John Francis Regis, St. Mary’s School in Nevada, and St. Mary’s School in Montrose are now part of the Bright Futures Fund schools.
As kicker Cairo Santos set up for his first field goal attempt of the game, partyers alternated between watching him on one (or two) of several big screens, watching KC Wolf saunter bouncily around and digging into the pasta dishes catered by Cascone’s Italian restaurant. There would be seven successful field goals in the course of the game, giving Santos a franchise record.
Silent auction items were placed on tables outside the room, and included Chiefs memorabilia such as a photo of the Kansas City Chiefs winning Superbowl IV 23-7 over the Minnesota Vikings in Jan. 1970, autographed by Len Dawson. There were Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon autographed baseballs and other Royals’ goodies, a Willie Lanier signed football, college football memorabilia from KU, K-State, MU, and Notre Dame, and more. Raffle tickets for an Apple watch were sold. Inside the View room, during the commercial breaks, Chiefs Ambassadors auctioned off a dinner at Lydia’s with Bobby Bell, an evening of food and entertainment with Walter White and his band, tickets to a Bright Futures Fund benefit concert, and more. As of Oct. 15, the total raised from the auctions, raffle and ticket sales was $41,000.
At halftime with the Chiefs losing to the Cincinnati Bengals, Lillig brightened the gloom in the room with highlights of the Bright Futures Fund schools and raffled off the Apple Watch to a very excited gentleman with the winning ticket.
Lillig announced that the Bright Futures Fund had applied for a grant from Kansas City Chief Derek Johnson’s Defend the Dream Foundation, and was awarded a grant to pay for a new library at Our Lady of Angels School in old Westport. The grant supplied 1,000 books and new furniture in a newly painted room; the library should be fully functional and welcoming for the students in a matter of days.
The three new Bright Futures Fund schools are part of a pilot program of following poverty and helping rural schools. Families at St. Regis, St. Mary-Nevada and St. Mary-Montrose will be able to apply for a needs-based scholarship to pay part of their tuition.
The Bright Futures Fund was established as the Central City School Fund in 1989, to provide needs-based scholarships to offset parish school tuition costs for poor families in the central city. Now in 2015, the poor are more widespread and rural school families have their own financial challenges.
Lillig said the Bright Futures Fund will keep exploring new avenues and reinventing itself as time goes on. There are four major pillars of the mission of the Fund: Spirituality (building a relationship with Christ), Community (connecting with others in classrooms and building community in the schools through Catholic social teaching and Catholic social justice tenets), Family (strengthening families through education), and Eradicating Poverty through education, he said. The fund is currently working on rebranding itself to connect more strongly to those pillars.