PHOTOS: St. John Neumann High School receives $4 million gift in name of former student

Saint John Neumann High School

3000 53rd Street SW, Naples, FL

— A North Naples couple gave St. John Neumann High School the largest single donation in the school’s history.

Bruce and Jeri Holecek made a $4 million donation to the school in the memory of their son, Justin Holecek, a 1997 graduate.

The couple, who are the trustees of The Holecek Family Trust, decided to make the challenge gift pledge to the school’s Capital Campaign for the creation of The Justin Holecek Student Life Center because it was where their son spent the best four years of his life.

“Justin loved this school and he loved the very good friends that he made,” said Bruce Holecek to a crowd of more than 200 that included clergy, students and guests.

His wife, Jeri Holecek added that Justin loved Naples and they wanted to make a local donation.

This donation honors Justin Holecek who died in September 2009 at age of 30 from a heart failure due to alcoholism.

During a prayer service in the school’s courtyard Wednesday, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of the Diocese of Venice announced the challenge gift pledged by the Holecek Family Trust, which will go toward phase 2 of the school’s “Building the Dream” Capital Campaign.

“We are helping to build, in the sense the kingdom of God on earth in training the young men and women in their faith,” Dewane said.

The donation will be used as part of a matching gift program to encourage others to contribute to the campaign.

“It is our hope and prayer that The Justin Holecek Student Life Center will be a living memorial to our son, Justin, and that it will live and serve long into the future,” Bruce Holecek said.

Holecek describes his son as a person who loved life, friends and helping people in need.

Justin Holecek earned a degree in marketing from the University of Florida. He was the owner of “The Bank,” a popular bar and lounge in Gainesville, and a real estate entrepreneur.

In high school, he played basketball and golf for four years and tennis as a freshmen and sophomore.

“He would be honored. He would love it,” said Daniel Weidenbruch, a high school and college friend of Justin Holecek.

“It’s a perfect memorial for him.”

Jeri Holecek echoed Weidenbruch. She said her son would be happy with the center.

The estimated 20,000-square-foot, two-story building will be a multi-purpose dining and performing arts facility, including a computer and a band rooms.

A new campus is more than half way completed, thanks to the $10 million “Reaching the Dream” Capital Campaign initiated by Bishop Dewane.

More than $4 million in new campus buildings and improvements have been made in phase 1 of the Capital Campaign. With the Holecek Family Trust gift toward phase 2, the Capital Campaign for St. John Neumann High School has raised $8 million dollars toward the school’s master campus plan since 2007, according to a prepared statement.

A chapel is the remaining project.

Principal Denny Denison said he was thankful to the Holecek Family Trust which would ensure that students continue to pursuit academic and Catholic education excellence.

In December 2010, the Holeceks made a $175,000 donation to the St. Matthew’s House Recovery Center, a six-month residential program that will now be called Justin’s Place, in honor of their son.

“There is no greater legacy, there is no more appropriate legacy that Justin can leave behind at St. John Neumann than this,” Bruce Holecek said.

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