Benedictine College Scholarship Ball Set for Feb. 22

Benedictine College Scholarship Ball Set for Feb. 22

New Overland Park Location Allows for Continued Growth

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The annual Benedictine College Scholarship Ball is one of the largest and most successful fundraising events in the Kansas City metropolitan area.  According to The Independent, the Ball has ranked as one of the top 10 charity fundraisers in the Kansas City metropolitan area and received an honorable mention in this year’s list.  To allow for continued growth, event co-chairs Lene Westerman and Stephen and Joan (Koechner) Charbonneau have moved the 43rd annual event to the Overland Park Convention Center, 6000 College Blvd.  Set to begin on February 22 with Mass at 4:30 p.m., the Scholarship Ball includes dinner, awards, entertainment and dancing to live music by the Michael Beers Band.  Tickets are $175 per person. For reservations or more information, go to

Each year, the Ball features the presentation of the Cross of the Order of St. Benedict to a select set of honorees.  Benedictine College established the Cross in 1969 as a way to recognize alumni and friends who have supported charitable institutions, provided civic or religious leadership, and demonstrated professional excellence.  This year, the prestigious award goes to Patricia Kearney Elder, Class of ’85, and the Benedictine Raven Soccer Booster founding members:  Dennis Ayer ’77, Tom Gorczyca ’77, Craig Klos ’76, Dan Stewart ’80 and the late John Casey ’74.

Patricia Elder

A homemaker, teacher, mother and wife, Patricia Elder is known as a quiet yet strong proponent of faith and family values in all things she touches.    Her college education started at Benedictine College.  Ironically, she was forced to go elsewhere after her freshman year due to the cost and the lack of available scholarships at the time.  She went on to get two Bachelor’s Degrees, one from Kansas State University and one from Webster University.  She also earned a Master’s Degree in Human Resources from Webster.   She ultimately left a very rewarding and lucrative career in human resources management to home school her two older sons.

Patricia is active with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and manages the Religious Emblems for the Catholic Committee on Scouting, through which she works to keep Catholic faith strong within the Boy Scouts of America.  She is active within her parish, St. Michael the Archangel, encouraging her sons to participate in the choir, teach rosary making skills to school children and altar serve.  She also helps to fill adoration hours, assists with confirmation retreats every year, and uses her human resources background to teach interviewing skills and offer mock job interviews for the unemployed.

One illustration of her penchant for going above and beyond is her work in the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association.  She is not only a debate coach for her sons, but also for other high-school-aged homeschooled students.  In addition, Patricia has organized an officially sanctioned debate tournament that will bring hundreds of competitors to Overland Park from all over the Midwest region.

A particular passion of hers is the right to life.  Since 2001, she has served on the board of directors for Project Rachel, an organization that offers women a path to healing after an abortion.  Not only has she devoted her time to the nonprofit from an organizational standpoint, she has also spent countless hours on phone duty and helping to counsel hurting women.  In conjunction with this work, she has also served on the board of directors for Kansans for Life and organizes Rosary Rallies at area Planned Parenthood locations.  One illustration of her commitment to the cause is the fact that she and her husband, Brad, recently adopted a newborn baby after a teenager chose life for the child, rather than an abortion.

As a testament to her devotion to the Catholic Church, she was invited to join the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in 2011.  She embraced the opportunity and the organization, supporting two students in school in Jerusalem as well as making pilgrimages to the Holy sites and financially supporting Christianity in the Middle East.  Throughout it all, she has demonstrated the excellence, charity and leadership that are the hallmarks of an outstanding Cross of the Order of St. Benedict honoree.

Brad and Patricia Elder have been married for 20 years, have 3 boys and are owners of an insurance agency, Fiat Insurance & Risk Management, which was named for the Blessed Mother.

Benedictine Raven Soccer Boosters

In 1989 John Casey, a 1974 Benedictine graduate and former head soccer coach, and a few former players wanted to form an organization where Benedictine College soccer alumni and staunch supporters of the Benedictine soccer programs could gather under one name for social events.  It had been crystal clear for some time that former players had immense passion and pride in Benedictine soccer that transcended generations going back to 1960.  It was also obvious Benedictine soccer was struggling and needed alumni support.  So, Casey wrote what became the Benedictine Ravens Soccer Booster Club (BRSB) bylaws.   In 1991, Casey, Dennis Ayer , Dan Stewart and Craig Klos formally became officers along with Tom Gorczyca and others as class representatives.  It was decided to utilize BRSB to gather for events and raise money for the soccer program.

The group did small things at first with the small amount of dollars they generated.  New soccer balls, travel uniforms for the team, team jackets, and other equipment were purchased by the Boosters.  The group sponsored fundraising events, conducted donation campaigns, solicited corporate support, and donated a sound system to the Athletic Department for its new bus, along with many “in kind” contributions.  They also created soccer-branded apparel and sold it to raise funds and show support and pride for BC Soccer.   

The group decided the playing surface was really the top priority for both teams, so this became the primary BRSB focus.  A smooth predictable field (pitch) is the number one thing every soccer player desires.  This would take permission from Benedictine College administrators, more money through fund raising (at least $20,000 per year), and a good operational plan.  The group started with seeding, fertilizing and watering the field.  They also bought lawn mowers and hired a turf consultant in Kansas City who traveled to Atchison in order to help measure and monitor the progress.

Slowly but surely, their goals and plans expanded.  The Soccer Boosters had their eyes set on that new playing surface at Benedictine.  Each year, they set money aside for the field while still funding and donating things like a public address system for home games, new sets of World Cup style goals, and player benches.  As the field and equipment improved, it had a positive impact on recruiting.  The men’s and women’s teams began to have more and more success.  They were winning conference championships and both teams earned trips to the NAIA national playoffs.

In time, the Boosters were able to help add stadium seating to the soccer complex, improve the PA system, add new fencing, improve the scoreboard and add lights to the field.  On top of that, they helped fund the college’s effort to install Field Turf in 2009.  Finally, the soccer complex was blessed with the opening of the John Casey Soccer Center in 2013.  That facility provides locker rooms for the men’s and women’s teams, offices for the coaches, and a new press box.

With a dose of BRSB passion and faith, soccer has flourished at Benedictine College, which has become known for its soccer program.  The Soccer Boosters have demonstrated their moral, emotional, financial and physical fortitude, always working in the best interest of the school and its students.  They, as individuals and as a group, epitomize the best aspects of a Cross of the Order of St. Benedict recipient.

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas.  The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide.  It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging.  It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.