2018 saw the dedication of Capt. T.J. Heitmann Memorial Track
PERU — Fundraising efforts are continuing in order to raise $90,000 to finish the Capt. Thomas J. Heitmann Memorial Track at St. Bede Academy.
The new 400-meter track, dedicated this past April, is named after Heitmann, who was tragically killed in a helicopter accident on Sept. 19, 2011, during a helicopter training mission at Marine Corps Air Station, Camp Pendleton, in southern California.
The track includes two long jump/triple jump runways with four sand pits, one pole vault runway, plus a shot put and discus area. The track also includes a soccer field inside with natural grass.
Heitmann, a Mendota native and 2002 St. Bede Academy graduate, died serving his country at the age of 27, a year after he began a project to build a track facility at St. Bede.
Heitmann earned a fourth-place medal in the 800-meter race at the state finals in 2002 and a fifth-place finish in the 3,200-meter relays a year earlier.
The first phase of the project, which included construction of the track, fencing, seeding and equipment, was blessed by Abbott Philip Davey, O.S.B., and dedicated following a Mass on April 15, 2018, after a five-year fundraising campaign, planning, and six months of construction.
This event was attended by Tom and Mary Heitmann, parents of Capt. Heitmann; his siblings, Aaron, Rachel, Hannah, Sarah and Mary, all graduates of St. Bede; and members of the military, including Heitmann’s commanding officer, Col. Robert Morgan.
Bret Dannis, a member of the track team and 2016 state champ for 110-meter and 300-meter hurdles, said: “Hearing the great news that St. Bede is getting a track couldn’t make me and the team happier. It is one of the things I was told would be done when I decided to come to school here. I know it will make the difference for our track team and teams in the future.”
In an effort to bring Thomas Heitmann’s dream to fruition, the Heitmann family, through fundraising and donations, contributed a lead gift of $200,000 along with a $250,000 gift from SBA that included the site and value of initial site work necessary to construct the track.
Donations have been received from military veterans, families of fallen Marines, alumni, friends and track athletes. Heitmann’s story touched the hearts of those with the desire to make his dream become a reality.
“We are excited to know that it won’t be long before we have a track to train and compete on,” said SBA track and field coach Ron Barnes.
Heitmann began this effort as a way of giving back. Now his family, friends and high school have carried that torch. In this spirit of giving, SBA plans to share this venue with the Illinois Valley by hosting community running events where all with a love of track and field can experience Heitmann’s dream.
Fundraising continues for Phase 2, which will complete the project, and includes equipment, timing devices, a storage facility, spectator seating and rest rooms.
To learn more about Heitmann and his track dream or to donate to the project, visit www.st-bede.com.