The spirit of giving by a late Winchester Elementary School student continues throughout the Winchester community.
Winchester Elementary 6th Grader James “Kerr” Ballard passed away on July 13th last year. Many in the Winchester Community wanted to continue the giving work that Kerr started while he was on Earth. A few parents in the Winchester community gathered and had a vision to update the Winchester Grade School basketball court in his honor and call it “Kerr’s Court,” as basketball was one of his favorite pastimes with everyone.
One of the parents in the group, Amanda Vortman, says that after word of mouth about redoing the court spread, the outpouring of donations and willingness to help flooded in: “There was already a project in the works with Kerr and his dad, Wes, to replace the sidewalk at our school. We just decided to piggyback on that project. We started out hoping to maybe just replace one of the basketball hoops on the back playground at the Elementary School. Within an hour and a half, no advertising, we had already exceeded that goal. From there, our phones just started to light up with text messages and phone calls from families that wanted to help, and so Kerr’s Court came to life.”
Concrete for the project began to get poured on May 18th by Ballard Construction.
Vortman says that after the initial push to get the court together, the group found out they could make the scope of the project bigger: “Through donations from our community members and businesses, we’ve collected enough money to replace both of the basketball hoops and install a 72×52 basketball court behind the school. Donations have been overwhelming, but the best thing has been watching our community come together with the love and kindness that Kerr showed everyone. We’ve received a lot of gifts from our community that have come from families personally. We’ve also seen a lot of people come together and donate money to us from cook-outs, lemonade stands, proceeds from businesses, and fundraisers. Our school has been very involved with change orders and different types of things related to the project. One family donated a money from a meat auction. We had another group of parents that they would start a flag football league in memory of Kerr. Then, all of the proceeds from the league went to the court. There’s been people giving from their hearts and their pockets. We haven’t completely reached out to anybody asking for anything. They have simply given to us.”
Vortman says that the project has also received a charitable grant from the Tracy Family Foundation and a $5,000 from the Illinois Electric Co-Op membership fund. She says in all the project has received $35,000 in total.
Vortman says there are some other projects possibly in the works, but Kerr’s Court is pushing ahead to be ready for the Fall: “They have completed the construction of the concrete pad behind the school. They have attached the basketball court with a playground, an outdoor classroom, and then some new sidewalks. We have to install the basketball hoops. The court itself will be painted. We have someone that is from the area but lives out of state coming to do that. We are currently working with his schedule to get all of that in order.”
Memorial signs along the outdoor classroom and possibly at Kerr’s Court are possibly being planned. They are hoping the court will be completed by the end of the summer to host a dedication for the family and the Winchester community.
Vortman says if you feel the need to donate to continue efforts, there’s a place in Winchester to go and donate: “The Farmer’s State Bank has been great to work with in helping us collect the donations. If anybody is interested in donating, we do have an account set up at the Farmer’s State Bank in Winchester in care of Bryan Hubbert. Checks can be sent there. We also have a Venmo account and PayPal account. All of that information can be found on our Facebook Page.”
Vortman says that she hopes the court continues Kerr’s passion of bringing people together in joy and happiness.