'Drive for Bryan' exceeds goals for sign funding
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
ELLIS -- The class is billed as a service learning class.
"While they are doing service, they are learning," Christie Brungardt said of her students in the Leadership 310 class at Fort Hays State University.
Zach Nash, a senior from Fort Lupton, Colo., said he learned much more than he thought he would, including "a lot goes into planning a community project."
Nash and three classmates in Brungardt's class this semester overcame what they called "a major object" Friday in earning approximately $3,500 for a project that will help place signs on Interstate 70 near both sides of exit 159 in Hays.
Those signs will honor fallen veterans, including CW2 Bryan Nichols, who grew up in Hays. Nichols was one of the Army pilots who died Aug. 6, 2011, when their Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.
Last year, two signs were installed on both sides of Interstate 70 that read "CW2 Bryan J. Nichols Fallen Veterans Memorial Interchange." The entire project, for all four signs, costs approximately $20,000.
Each semester, different organizations or representatives of community projects speak to members of the 310 class, giving them ideas of projects to pursue.
Seth Kastle, an instructor in the leadership department, was a good friend of Nichols and suggested the sign project.
At the time the team "Drive for Bryan" set a date for a golf scramble tournament in Ellis, team members didn't know there was another tournament already scheduled in Hays for the same day, the 23rd annual Blake McGuire Memorial.
"Drive for Bryan" still went off without a hitch, with six teams competing for top honors on a pleasant spring day Friday at Ellis Golf Club.
A team of Fort Hays students called Texhoma -- two were from Texas and two from Oklahoma -- won the tourney title. And one player on the Texhoma team -- Logan Jones, a senior from Blackwell, Okla. -- also took home a few individual prizes.
Jones won a driver for the longest drive contest and also was highest bidder for a Fort Hays football jersey in a silent auction.
"I wanted this because that was my number in high school," Jones said as he held the No. 78 jersey. "I'm happy."
So, too, were organizers of the tournament, as well as members of Nichols' family who attended the tournament -- Nichols' widow, Mary Nichols, from Kansas City, Mo., and his parents, Doug and Cindy Nichols from Palco.
"This will help so much," Mary Nichols said. "It's so awesome that (students) are out doing this."
She said before the tournament, approximately $4,500 still was needed to be raised to complete the project. Tournament proceeds, which included donations for sponsor signs for each hole and the silent auction, far exceeded the team's goal of $1,500.
Some of the donations, which came from Nichols' family, were pieces of guns salvaged from the helicopter wreckage and shipped to the United States.
"It makes you feel good that everyone is having fun at our activity," said Michael Gallagher, a junior from Ogden. "This class has really shown me appreciation for all the activities you see out there. You don't know how much work goes into it until you're involved in something like this yourself."
Organization, time management, asking for donations and getting sponsors were just a few of the skills team member said they learned along the way.
"You can't wait until the last minute," Nash said. "You learn how to step back and look at the big picture and plan from there."
Joining Nash and Gallagher on the "Drive for Bryan" team were Steiner Scott, a junior from Hoxie, and Derek Palmer, a senior from Wellsville.