LANSING | Supporters of St. Florian School in Chicago's Hegewisch neighborhood have turned to an unlikely ally in their effort to save the Catholic education institution: rock 'n' roll music instruments.
The school was included in a list of six schools the Chicago Archdiocese targeted for closure, prompting supporters to hold a fundraising dinner and raffle Friday night.
Among the items that were auctioned off was a guitar made by Jim Hirosky, a Hegewisch neighborhood resident with two children who now attend St. Florian’s school and two more children he hopes will attend there in the near future.
“The teachers are good,” Hirosky said, adding he has two younger children who suffer from ADHD. “They have people on staff there who are good in dealing with those kind of children. It would be bad for everybody if this school does not remain open.
His guitar was meant to be a replica of guitars that rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen played in the early 1980s. Hirosky said he has built his own guitars for the past decade because he prefers their sound.
“I like them loud, and I like them fast,” he said.
This is not a one-time donation. Hirosky said he will make four guitars per year for the next three years and donate them to the St. Florian effort to be sold at future fundraisers.
Other items placed up for auction to help the St. Florian cause included a Chicago White Sox warm-up jacket and a baseball autographed by Paul Konerko, a trip to either Las Vegas or Florida, and packets of assorted sweatshirts, caps and other gear from area Catholic high schools such as Mount Carmel in Chicago, Bishop Noll in Hammond and Marian Catholic in Chicago Heights.
For those who attended the event at the Knights of Columbus Hall, St. Florian has become a cause – even if they have no children at the school.
“I’m here to show my support for my friends who want the school to stay open,” said Denise Maggio, an East Side neighborhood native who said she recalls when the school she attended, at St. George Parish at 96th Street and Ewing Avenue, was closed due to declining enrollment.
“I remember how it hurt to lose my school,” she said. “These children shouldn’t have to go through that.”
Lisa Dejanovich, who helped to coordinate Friday’s fundraiser, which included a buffet supper, said about 250 tickets were sold in advance of the event, with more than 100 people paying at the door.
She put the amount of money raised by the event at between $10,000-15,000, which will go toward the goal of raising $200,000 per year for the next three years. That would allow the school to fill the gap in the subsidy the Archdiocese says it can no longer afford to provide.
The Rev. Robert Marchwiany, the pastor of St. Florian parish, declined to say how close to that goal the fundraising effort is. “I’d rather not put a dollar figure on it, because these things are fluid,” he said.