Decatur school has slam dunk grandma in its corner

By MARK TUPPER Herald & Review

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) — Eleanor Alsbury just wanted the best for her grandson. So with a bold idea, a determined effort and the generosity of friends and fellow citizens, he now has it.

Alsbury has proven that if one person can grab a cause and become its passionate champion, amazing things can happen.

Around St. Teresa High School, Alsbury was certainly no stranger to supporting the activities of her grandson, Isaiah Bond, including his participation as a member of the boys basketball team.

“Ever since Isaiah has been here she has helped out by working the gate at basketball games, and she’s always given of her time,” said Todd Vohland, the St. Teresa athletics director. “She’s a very upbeat person, very positive.”

Ever since Isaiah became acquainted with the Central Illinois basketball scene, he noticed what other schools had and St. Teresa didn’t have. And it bothered him.

“He started playing varsity when he was a freshman, and he’d ride home with us from the out-of-town games and he’d talk about the nice scoreboards they had,” Alsbury said.

Since she was attending all of his games, she was plenty familiar with the failing condition of the St. Teresa scoreboard, one that she believes had been hanging on the gymnasium wall for 30 years.

“The scoreboard malfunctioned several times last year, to the point where I felt embarrassed,” she said. “One game it went off three times.”

Vohland said it had been a reliable and essential piece of equipment that started to have issues once wiring problems began to show the effects of old age.

Eleanor’s idea was simple: Let’s replace it. And she took that idea to Ken Hendriksen, the former CEO/principal who now serves as executive director of the St. Teresa Educational Foundation and Development.

Hendriksen offered to gather bids to determine the cost, but he advised her there was no money in the budget for a new scoreboard.

She’d seen in a school newsletter where basketball coach Tom Noonan mentioned a new scoreboard on his personal wish list, and she already knew a new scoreboard headed the wish list of her grandson, Isaiah.

Long story short: She asked if she could try to raise the money.

“I’d never raised money before,” she said. “But I decided I would be the contact person for it.”

So she composed a letter, explaining the goal and went about the business of contacting people who might be willing to help. Some she phoned. Others she visited in person.

It was a daunting project, because she not only wanted to raise the $26,000 it would cost to purchase and install a new Daktronics scoreboard, she wanted it operational in time for this season’s St. Teresa home opener.

“Some suggested selling doughnuts or cards, but I told them, ‘I don’t have time for that. My goal is to get this done in time for this season.”

Plainly put, her grandson was about to start his senior season, and she wanted to grant his wish now, not after he’d graduated and moved on to college.

Alsbury was surprised and delighted that people responded in a positive way.

“So many people approached me and thanked me for doing it,” said Alsbury, who said donations ranged from $50 to nearly $5,000.

Once the money was raised, the scoreboard was ordered. And when Isaiah and his teammates took the court on Dec. 15, the new scoreboard blinked beautifully, complete with expanded areas that track players, points and personal fouls.

A little extra money was able to provide countdown clocks for each locker room, so coaches know when it’s time to bring their team back onto the court.

Vohland said Alsbury’s determination and the generosity of others have given St. Teresa something to be proud of.

“It makes our gym look really good,” Vohland said. “And it’s pretty amazing that she did this so quickly. In athletics, we rely on fundraising or donations to get certain things done, and you have to feel blessed when people identify a need and are willing to put up the money to get that need met.

“People who think that one person can’t make a difference are wrong,” he added. “She’s a great lady and a great example of what a person can do.”

Needless to say, Alsbury, is plenty proud when the new scoreboard helps light up the St. Teresa gym. She likes knowing it will also be used for girls basketball and volleyball, too.

“Isaiah loves it,” she said. “I told him as we started to raise the money, ‘Hopefully, we’ll get this. I want it for you and I want it for the team. I want you to have it and enjoy it.’”

All it took was the right formula. One dream. One determined grandmother. And a great deal of generosity.

By Patricia Older

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