2019 Founder's Day Celebrates Amazing Grace

Honorees Exemplify the Mission and Ministry of the Sisters
Posted on 11/11/2019
2019 Founder's Day Honorees

Each November, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth mark their arrival in 1858 on the banks of the Missouri River in Leavenworth, Kansas. This is a day to celebrate their lived example of 'doing whatever they can with whatever they have to fulfill their calling to serve those living on the margins of society.'

To establish their ministries on the frontier, they walked into smoky saloons to solicit contributions from cowboys and miners. They carried rocks from the riverbanks to build hospital foundations. So, it was very fitting that, in 2005, when urban education was in crisis, they said, “Yes,” to sponsoring Cristo Rey Kansas City, a school exclusively dedicated to serving families who could not afford private school education.

Each year on Founder’s Day, Cristo Rey honors people who have partnered with the Sisters and the school to ensure the existence of a private, Catholic, college-prep school for the students of Kansas City’s urban neighborhoods.

Founder's Day 2019 spotlighted the gifts of honorees who partner with the school to create a future full of hope for students.

- John Altman
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City
- Gary Kruger
- Yolanda McGill
- Don and +Rita Miller 

John Altman
The great American storyteller, Walt Disney, once said, “That’s what we storytellers do.  We restore order with imagination. We instill hope - again and again and again.”  Whether through documentary films that tell the story of the Last Stand of the Tallgrass Prairie or Immigrants in the Heartland: Who Are We Following, John Altman has dedicated his talents to turning up the volume on the stories that mold and shape our values.

When Cristo Rey needed a director to create and deliver Dancing with the Kansas City Stars, it turned to John Altman.  John has put in countless hours consulting on scripts, managing rehearsals, and inspiring each and every person – year after year - to give his or her personal best. 

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City 
Blue Cross Blue Shield is rooted in the value of “taking care of workers.” In 1929, a forward-thinking university administrator offered teachers 21 days of hospital care for $6 a year, and Blue Cross came into being.  Ten years later Blue Shield emerged as employers of loggers and miners created a medical bureau to provide physician services for their workforce.   Today, this federation of companies provides health insurance to more than 106 million people in the United States.

In their hometowns across America, the charitable impact of Blue Cross Blue Shield casts a long shadow. In the early days of Cristo Rey, Blue KC underwrote the cost of student workers at Cabot Westside and Samuel U. Rogers Health Clinics.  Today, Blue KC has two teams of students working in their headquarters and took the weight off of Cristo Rey's technology budget by donating Surface Pro computers for student use.  Most importantly, they help student learn to work. . .and, work to learn. 

Gary Kruger
There is an old saying, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  Gary Kruger fits this to a “T.”

A career teacher, Gary Kruger joined the staff of Cristo Rey in 2011 as Campus Minister. In this role, Gary expanded retreat experiences and took service learning to a new level.  Over many holidays, you could find Kruger with students on service learning retreats to Jerusalem Farm. By building the Junior and Senior Christian Leader Program, Kruger gave upperclassmen the opportunity to take a spiritual lead of peers. As if this were not a full schedule, Gary coached Cross Country and Baseball, positions he kept long after he formally retired as Campus Minister. Kruger may have left the day-in-day out schedule of campus ministry and athletic coaching, however, he can be found several days a week in the halls of Cristo Rey serving as an academic coach for students needing additional help in English and history.

Yolanda McGill
Our next honoree didn’t necessarily have the time to begin a long record of volunteering at Cristo Rey; but she certainly had the heart.  Wanting to help her granddaughters' school, Yolanda McGill put her hand up at a community meeting and became a general volunteer.  She answered phones in the main office, she greeted guests to the building and she did whatever she could to make Cristo Rey run smoothly.

But then, our Institutional Advancement department got ahold of Yolanda, and the rest was history.  Every year and multiple days a week, Yolanda methodically registers all guests and seats them in the ballroom for Dancing with the Kansas City Stars.  She’s at the event to make things ‘just right’ for the more than 1,000 guests. 

Don Miller
For years, the letters arrived without fanfare.  Sensible stationery. Beautiful cursive writing. The notes suggested that the writer was “a positive force in the world.”

Inspired by newspaper accounts, Rita and Don Miller started writing letters to the very first graduates of Cristo Rey.  Written like a trusted family friend, the letters congratulated the grads and encouraged the teachers.

While signed, “Rita and Don,” the handwriting was clearly that of Rita and the subject hit the mark for what students and teachers needed to hear.

“Keep going.  The work is worth it.”

“Call it the Four-Leaf Clover – but there is no luck involved, simply hard work.”

At back-to-school time in 2015, the handwriting changed and the letters were signed, “Don.”  When we called to check with him, we learned that Rita had passed.

Through Don, Cristo Rey keeps in touch with Rita.  She inspires him to be that positive force in the world and to keep the spirits high.

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