Writer / Kara Kavensky
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
Lawrence residents Chad McCune and Mark Pressley created The Bridge Fund to help students bridge a gap in Lawrence schools.
During the 2015-2016 school year, The Bridge Fund reports that 657 students were impacted by its efforts, and the number has doubled during the first semester of the 2016-2017 school year impacting more than 1,200 students. Opportunities made available included college tours, scholarships, state certification fees, winter coats, college application fees, medical scrubs, yearbooks, cosmetology kits, performing arts fees, athletic fees, and much more.
“We wanted to do something in Lawrence in our own backyard,” says Mark of his and Chad’s efforts, which have steadily grown.
Their focus is on education and keeping kids interested in school. They look for kids on the bubble or those who need some assistance to keep them engaged, whether in academics or sports.
“Who knows which of these kids, if able to have a little bit of help, will keep them engaged with school to better their lives?” says Chad of the reasoning behind their mission. “Every kid should have access to the same opportunities as everyone else.”
Chad is a Lawrence North graduate. His father, Dr. Bob McCune, a popular area veterinarian and philanthropist, supported the Lawrence Exchange and encouraged his son to get involved.
“My dad was in the second graduating class of Purdue’s School of Veterinary Medicine,” shares Chad, who owns McCune Outdoor Living. “I was raised attending fundraisers to better our community, so it was only natural to continue the tradition.”
While Bob was recovering from a minor medical procedure, Mark and Chad attended a football game with Chad’s cousins and held up signs that read, “Hi Bob,” which was a reference not only to his father, but to the classic “Bob Newhart Show.”
“Bob told me to help Chad to do something for our area,” states Mark. “What started with a $2,500 check and the best of intentions has grown to encompass all Lawrence Township schools.”
“I grew up with enough. Some of these kids just need a little assistance to meet their needs,” shares Mark, a Howe High School graduate whose father was a fireman. Mark has lived in Lawrence for more than 30 years and his children are graduates of LNHS. “We also award scholarships to students.”
“We have many amazing supporters and would love to see more Lawrence-area businesses get involved,” shares Chad. For 2016, The Bridge Fund outreach includes:
• 35 students at Skiles Test Elementary received funds for a robotics competition.
• 325 backpacks were filled with school supplies and made available to students in need.
• 39 students from Belzer Middle School received help in paying athletic fees.
• 31 students from Belzer Middle School were able to visit Ball State University.
• 35 calculators were purchased that will be used now by 190 students.
• 600 composition notebooks were purchased for Brook Park Elementary.
Another story involves eighth grader Alexis and sixth grader Kierstin, who are both visually impaired and have a strong interest in Space Camp. The Bridge Fund was able to pay for the space suits the girls needed to attend a Space Camp for the visually impaired. They joined 217 students from around the world and are now interested in working with NASA.
“Some kids just need their SAT test fees paid for,” shares Mark. “Keeping these kids engaged is in all of our best interests. The Bridge Fund fills in the gaps. We strive to get kids involved and keep ownership in their education, which allows doors to open. With paying a student’s athletic fees, for instance, it’s proven that there is a direct correlation to grades during their athletic season.”
Lawrence Township School Foundation Executive Director Cori Korn adds, “We are so thankful for the sponsors and donors of The Bridge Fund. Their generosity allows us to provide many opportunities for our students. Your gift can truly make a difference, one student at a time.”
For more information, please visit: bridgefundindiana.org/index.html