Chaircoupes for the 29th annual Friends of Kuemper Ball, featuring the theme “A Knight at the Derby,” are (from left Jeff and Lori Greteman, Dirk and Beth Glynn, John and Monica Healy, and Clint and Melinda Daniel. Daily Times Herald photo by Larry Devine
Chaircoupes for the 29th annual Friends of Kuemper Ball, featuring the theme “A Knight at the Derby,” are (from left Jeff and Lori Greteman, Dirk and Beth Glynn, John and Monica Healy, and Clint and Melinda Daniel. Daily Times Herald photo by Larry Devine
And they're off. The 29th annual Friends of Kuemper Ball fundraising campaign broke from the starting gates Sunday with organizational business plus announcement of this year's theme: "A Knight at the Derby."

The Kuemper Ball is celebrated each year on the first Saturday in May, which coincides with the Kentucky Derby, probably thoroughbred racing's most famous event. This year's 139th annual Run for the Rose at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., and the Kuemper Ball will be Saturday, May 4.

Between now and then, campaign volunteers will be keeping a fast pace, raising funds for Kuemper Catholic School System.

Last year's Ball raised a record $508,195 - the first time over a half-million dollars - resulting in income of $455,024.

All money raised in the campaign goes to Kuemper schools, and funds from last year were allocated to: Funds to maintain teacher pay (general budget), general operating fund, marketing and recruitment, tuition assistance, technology equipment, professional development, religion textbooks, tuckpointing the west side of Kuemper High School, roof repairs on the high school and Holy Spirit Center, gym lights at St. Lawrence Center, playground repair at Holy Spirit, intercom system upgrade at St. Lawrence, one-half cost of a new freezer in the high school kitchen, building-entry modifications at St. Lawrence, Holy Spirit and St. Angela and critical needs, including a passenger vehicle for staff and student use, improvements to the public speaking and sound system in the high school gym and rebuilding the loading dock at the high school.

Kuemper president Vern Henkenius said in a letter included in this year's campaign packets, "One can see how funds from the Ball as well as other major fundraisers like the Alumni Phon-A-Thon, are so important. The 28 Balls held to date have raised a cumulative total of $6,526,571.

"Ball funds are used for tuition assistance and support for teacher pay. The fact that the school has a strong technology delivery system is due in large part to Ball support. Marketing the Kuemper Catholic School System is a constant goal. Textbook purchases continue to be important, as do professional-development activities. Finally, Ball funds are used for major expenditures to maintain the building and grounds."

Leading Sunday's meeting were chaircouples Clint and Melinda Daniel, Dirk and Beth Glynn, Jeff and Lori Greteman, and John and Monica Healy.

In a brief interview before the kickoff, Jeff Greteman said he sees a positive economic climate going into this year's campaign.

"The overall climate in Carroll County is pretty strong," he said. "The ag community has been very supportive of Kuemper, and we have started an ag raffle this year.

"Overall, so far, we've been real pleased, and we'll wait and see now that we're kicking off and starting to knock on doors."

Along with the raffle for a $20,000 voucher toward a vehicle and the general raffle featuring 21 prizes, a new feature this year is an ag raffle. Chances are $50 each, and the winner will receive a voucher for $10,000 toward a purchase at one of the four participating dealerships: Haley Equipment, Horizon Equipment, Rueter's or Schenkelberg Implement.

The vehicle raffle tickets are $100 each, and participating dealerships are Adams Motors, Champion Ford, Macke Motors, Motor Inn of Carroll and Wittrock Motors.

Top prize in the general raffle - tickets are $10 each - is a $2,000 travel voucher provided in part by Town and Country Travel.

Greteman said of the Knight at the Derby theme, "We thought it would be a good correlation. The Kentucky Derby is a big party, and we thought this would be a great way to raise funds for Kuemper."

The Kuemper Ball is also marking a first this year with Greteman serving as one of the chairpersons. He's the first second-generation chair. His parents, Mike and Cathy Greteman, along with Ray and Carol Lenz were chairs in 1990, when Jeff was a Kuemper sophomore.

"One thing that sticks in my mind is they (his parents) talked about how much fun they had with the other chaircouple, Ray and Carol Lenz," Jeff said.

"And this has been great because we've gotten to be good friends with these people," he said referring to the Daniels, Glynns and Healys.

The new-generation story will expand next year, when chaircouples will be Jair and Julie Mayhall, Chase and Janelle Schreck, Dr. Mike and Pat Soppe, and Brent and Cindy Tiefenthaler. Julie Mayhall is a daughter of Mike and Cathy Greteman, and Janelle Schreck is a daughter of Ray and Carol Lenz.

The loyalty and support the Ball has built over the years was demonstrated by Sunday's attendance of many past chairs, including Chico and Bev Kanne, who helped lead the inaugural event in 1985.

"There's been a good recipe for success, and we're going to try to build on that and continue it," Jeff Greteman said. "We're excited about it. We've had fun doing it."