About two years ago, Thomas Heitmann wrote a letter to St. Bede track and field coach Mike Skoflanc.
The former Bruin standout wanted to see what could be done to raise funds to build a track at his alma mater.
Tragically, Heitmann is not able to see that project through.
Heitmann was killed Sept. 19 while flying an AH-1W Cobra helicopter during a training exercise at Camp Pendleton.
However, his family plans to fulfill Heitmann’s vision.
father, Tom, and uncle, Gerry, are in the process of starting a
foundation in Heitmann’s name with the intent of raising the funds to
build a track — and possibly an entire sports complex — at the Academy.
a dream that Thomas wanted,” Tom Heitmann said. “Thomas wanted to do
that for the school. Having a facility that other people can come and
use - not only St. Bede (students) but the community - that’s what
Thomas was about. He was about helping people.”
Despite not having a track to practice on at the Academy, Heitmann developed into a star runner.
was named the NewsTribune Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year
after his senior season in 2002. That year, he earned a fourth-place
medal in the 800-meter run at the IHSA Class A State Track and Field
Thomas, who still owns the school record in the 800, also
ran on the St. Bede 3,200-meter relay that placed fourth in the state in
“Thomas loved to run,” Tom Heitmann said. “It’s kind of
hard to run on parking lots. Thomas is not the only athlete who has done
well through the years at St. Bede (despite the lack of facilities).
What could some of these kids have done if they had a world-class
facility they could practice on?”
The Heitmanns met with the St.
Bede administration late in 2011 and went before the school’s board in
January to present the idea of building a track. Gerry Heitmann said the
board was “fully supportive” of the plan.
The Rettler Corporation, an engineering firm based in Stevens Point, Wisc., has consulted on the project.
Heitmann said there are several options for where the track may be
built, including around the football field or on the east side of the
gymnasium, but he said the final decision would be left to the St. Bede
The estimated cost of a track alone without a
field inside it, stands or other amenities is $350,000-$500,000. The
Heitmann’s hope to provide a fund to cover maintenance expenses along
with donating the initial funds for construction.
The foundation plans to raise the money through various fundraisers such as golf outings and 5Ks.
us as a family, what better way of honoring a St. Bede graduate and a
fallen marine than to put something up in his memory that meant a lot to
him,” Tom Heitmann said.
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