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Big donation puts WKS auditorium over fundraising goal

William Kelley Schools' auditorium seats are in need of replacement. Photo courtesy Lisa Malcomb

Thanks to an anonymous donor, the William Kelley Schools has surpassed its fundraising goal to replace its aging auditorium seats.

In late December, the school received a $50,000 anonymous grant from an advised fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

"To come in over break and open an envelope with an anonymous donor giving us fifty grand was pretty phenomenal," said Katie Fritz, chairwoman of the WKS Auditorium Seats Project and a WKS English teacher.

That donation arrived just after the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation gave $30,000 toward purchasing new auditorium seats. A $20,000 gift from Cliffs is expected, but has not yet been received.

Both grants were accepted by the Lake Superior School District at last week's school board meeting. The council also approved a request to proceed for bids for WKS auditorium seating.

The school has now gathered $115,326 in donations, exceeding its $100,000 goal — enough for 500 seats at $200 each. Fritz expects to install more than 500 seats, however, so the rows are even and to fill out any usable space.

Nearly 60 years old — original to the school — the seats are showing their age. Some are patched with duct tape. There are currently 803 seats in the auditorium, but Fritz said they are adding 8-10 inches of legroom and the new seats are a bit wider as well.

"We don't ever get to a place where we need 800 seats in there anymore," Fritz said.

Lake Superior Community Theater will still hold a dance concert fundraiser Sunday, Feb. 11, at 2:30 p.m. Proceeds will go toward the other auditorium improvement projects.

Donors can continue to sponsor a seat for $200 and have their name engraved on a new seat in the auditorium.

"We're continuing the fundraising, which blows my mind that we're in that place," Fritz said.

Any additional donations could be used to improve other parts of the auditorium, such as fixing bolt holes in the floor, installing fold-up desks on some chairs, painting the auditorium ceiling and updating the sound system or tech booth.

"It's like we're bringing our theater to the spa ... It's like the full treatment," Fritz said.