Before Newt Gingrich, Boys Town had Father Simeon Kasik blowing its horn.
Father Kasik is the pastor of the Mary Immaculate Queen parish near Rathdrum. His dream is to open a Boys Town-type village on 232 rolling acres just south of Spirit Lake.
“I firmly believe if we don’t do something for children, we have a bleak future,” the 50-something priest says, waving his hands like a symphony conductor. “Children are struggling, screaming for help.”
An abandoned teenage boy set Father Kasik on the path to his youth village six years ago. The traditional Catholic priest had taught in public and Catholic schools for 25 years and had just earned his doctorate in philosophy and educational leadership from Gonzaga University.
The boy who came to him needed a home, parents, stability. Father Kasik helped him and decided he could help others.
Father Kasik had grown up in Omaha, Neb., a neighbor of Boys Town. He liked Boys Town’s solid model. The non-profit social service with a $94 million annual budget fills life’s potholes for tens of thousands of children every year.
Children live in large homes with up to seven others in a campus-style community. Married couples live in each house and are trained as parents.
Father Kasik envisions a similar village, although smaller, for boys near Spirit Lake. He wants farm animals, a school and, eventually, ballfields and a recreational center with a pool.
People already have donated $50,000 to his nondenominational project. He figures he needs $100,000 and a lot of volunteers to build the first six-bedroom house of six. The help won’t come easily or quickly.
Father Kasik admits with some exasperation that he’s better at dispensing help than organizing so big a project. But he has faith it will get done.
“It used to be you just gave them food and shelter, but kids need help,” he says. “You can’t keep a kid down. They’re survivors. With some help and guidance, they’ll be all right.”
Bonners Ferry’s Al Kelly took a new job in Libby, Mont., a few months ago, figuring his family could tough out the six-month probation period when no medical insurance was offered.
But at the end of May, his 7-year-old daughter, McKinsey, fell and was hit by a truck while she bicycled with her family in town. She wore a helmet, but still ended up in a coma for 10 days. Now, she’s awake and in rehab at St. Luke’s in Spokane. The outlook is good.
The medical bill will reach far into the thousands for the family. Friends are trying to help with a carnival 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Bonner County Fairgrounds. There will be food, games and an auction.
They’ve also organized a benefit shoot with 3-D animal targets at the Libby Archery Club July 22. Entry fees will go to the Kellys rather than to trophies. Call (406)293-4817 for details.
If you can’t make either event but want to help, send your donation to McKinsey Kelly’s special account at Panhandle State Bank, P.O. Box 1479, Bonners Ferry, ID 83805.
Fit to be tied
My favorite event of the summer is the Coeur d’Alene Youth Triathlon in August - and not just because I direct it. These racing kids are determined, as one little girl proved last year.
Like most triathletes, she put elastic laces in her tennis shoes so she could slip them on quickly after the swim and take off on the bike leg of the race.
Unfortunately, she chose high-top shoes and didn’t practice pulling them on at home. She couldn’t get her feet into them on race day. After a few tearful tries, she took off in socks - and finished second.
What’s your best race story? Zip your memories to Cynthia Taggart, “Close to Home,” 608 Northwest Blvd., Suite 200, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, 83814; FAX them to 765-7149; or call 765-7128 and I’ll tell you about the youth triathlon.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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