Proceeds Will Go To The St. Boniface Gym Asbestos Removal Fund
Faced with the task of raising thousands and thousands of dollars for the removal of asbestos from the St. Boniface gymnasium, Father Ross Burkhalter is setting out to do what no Elgin priest has done before — walk the Cowboy Trail.
Beginning on May 12 and concluding five days later, Father Ross will walk 195 miles from Valentine to Norfolk to raise funds for the work. He plans to walk nearly 40 miles a day for each of those five days to accomplish his goal. It’s one he’s confident he can do, but it won’t be easy.
“I’m amazed at the number of people who have responded, parishioners, priests and people who have heard about it one way or another,” he said last week.
Father Ross sat down on the afternoon of Maundy Thursday at the rectory to reflect on the upcoming trek.
“Rather than simply do some fundraising in the form of a letter, I wanted to do something else,” the priest said. “It’s always been a goal of mine to walk the ‘Cowboy Trail’ and I thought this might catch people’s imagination.”
It has. As of last count, he has pledges of more than $41 per mile so far for the trip. To allow everyone to feel like they are part of Father Ross’s effort, they can pledge a set amount of money for each eagle, ground squirrel, rabbit and quail he sees along the way, they can pledge so much per mile or they can make an outright donation. Whatever form one chooses to donate funds, Father Ross said he would be grateful.
“I came up with the idea, after hearing about what others have done,” he said. “I don’t like running because it’s hard on the knees and you don’t get to enjoy the scenery. There’s something about walking at a good pace. You get to enjoy what you see.” He said he came to love walking years ago as he adopted an exercise regimen to lose weight.
His trek is not without worries. For one, there’s the weather. Mid-May in Nebraska can produce just about any kind of weather, so Father Ross will have to have the necessary clothes for such conditions. He said he chose May because the temperatures are not as hot as they can be in July and August. Another concern is farm dogs. “I’m not going to bother farm animals and I hope they’re not going to bother me.”
After completing each day’s walk, Father Ross plans to stay at rectories along the way. There will need to be stops during each day to get food, water and to rest, but Father Ross doesn’t plan to rest much until the end of the day. Aside from some necessary clothes (depending on the weather) all he will keep in his back pack is some necessary items. The lighter the backpack, the better, he said. Essential items for the trek will be a good pair of walking shoes, a cellphone, a walking stick and a baseball hat.
He plans to begin each day at 7 a.m. “I estimate it will take about 11 hours to easily get where I need to be,” he said. “I’m considering this a ‘working’ vacation.” He wants to complete each leg of the trek before the sun goes down.
Persons wishing to make a donation can do so by sending donations to “Cowboy Up” for Fr. Ross, St. Boniface Church, POB B, Elgin, NE 68636
About the gymnasium
St. Boniface Gymnasium has hosted many activities since its construction back in 1958. Aside from sporting events for St. Boniface, Pope John and, most lately, Elgin Public-Pope John, the gym has been the site for musicals, graduations, art shows, pancake breakfasts, craft fairs and, perhaps most famous for, the annual Thanksgiving Dinner and Bazaar.
According to a letter sent out several months ago, Father Ross informed parishioners that the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services had received a formal complaint against the parish in reference to a time when a ceiling tile had fallen during an event which potentially exposed the public to asbestos. While air samples have been taken which shows the air is safe to breath, the DHHS has given the parish until the summer of 2014 to conduct a full asbestos abatement of all of the ceilings in the building (with the exception of the gym kitchen, already abated in 2007). Preliminary steps have already been taken and work will kick into high gear after graduation of this year’s PJCC senior class. Earth Services and Abatement of Sioux City has been contracted to remove the asbestos. The estimated cost to complete the entire project (remove asbestos, re-insulate the building, build new ceilings and reinstall lighting) is approximately 250,000.