BELLEVILLE — Close to 500 people attended a dinner Wednesday night at Fischer's Restaurant to raise money for the installation of field turf at Belleville West and Belleville East high schools.
Belleville Township High School District 201 Superintendent Jeff Dosier said the dinner was a kickoff event for the fundraising effort.
So far, $160,000 has been donated or pledged, Dosier said. That is about 13 percent of the money needed, as the project is estimated to cost between $1.2 and $1.3 million.
Dosier estimated between $10,000 and $12,000 will be added as a result of Wednesday night's dinner. "The generosity of our community has been great," he said.
Dinner attendees had the opportunity to rub elbows with special guests including St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon and former St. Louis Cardinals offensive lineman and NFL Hall of Fame member Dan Dierdorf, who served as the master of ceremonies.
Belleville native and former Masters Golf Tournament champion Bob Goalby was unable to attend the dinner due to an illness, Dosier said. Goalby was one of the primary organizers of Wednesday's dinner.
"Mr. Goalby suggested doing a dinner," Dosier said, noting Goalby invited the prominent guest speakers.
Dierdorf said he agreed to speak at the dinner, because "Bob Goalby is a dear friend."
He also said he's in favor of "anything to improve the athletic experience for kids."
Shannon echoed Dierdorf's remarks.
"It's a great cause," Shannon said. "Any time Bob (Goalby) puts his name to something, it's worthy."
Belleville West and St. Louis University standout Joe Wiley and former Washington Redskins defensive lineman Dave Butz also attended.
Wiley said he benefited from the great schools and sports programs in Belleville and wanted to give back to the community that provided his foundation.
Wiley was scheduled to broadcast a St. Louis University basketball game on television Wednesday night, but he said "they can live without me."
Other fundraisers are in the works for the field turf. A golf tournament is expected to be held over the summer.
Dosier said he would like to see the field turf installed "as soon as possible. It would give us so much versatility, because weather doesn't matter," he said, adding the schools are limited to the number of events hosted on the grass fields.
The field turf wouldn't just benefit the sports programs, but the music and band programs as well, Dosier said.
"It's very exciting. There's a lot of buzz about our community doing this with grants and private funding," he said.
To donate to the project, call the schools' athletic directors: Jim Loyet at Belleville East, 618-222-3730, or Bill Schmidt at Belleville West, 618-222-7665.
More information about the fundraising efforts can be found at www.BTHS201.org/turffortheteams.
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or email@example.com.