Church Donation Bolsters Student Health and Safety Programs

(from left) Pastor Ron Aulbach; Brian Pankratz, executive director of Rockford Ninja Warrior; board Treasurer Laura Featherstone; board President Miles Postema; and Superintendent Michael Shibler

Two programs providing social and emotional support for students got a major boost recently, thanks to a $45,000 donation from Bridgeway Community Church.

The non-denominational congregation at 6175 Northland Drive NE contributed the gift to the district’s Developing Healthy Kids and D.A.R.E. programs, both geared toward helping students make wise decisions and enjoy good mental health. Church leaders presented the check to the Rockford Board of Education at its Nov. 14 meeting.

Representing the proceeds of its Rockford Ninja Warrior event held last summer, the donation will be split between the two programs, said Superintendent Mike Shibler, adding a gift of such magnitude from a faith-based group was unprecedented in his nearly 50 years with public schools.

“We’re blessed to have this opportunity to receive this gift from Bridgeway,” Shibler said. “It is obviously going to help us not only maintain the programs, but in Developing Healthy Kids we’re going to be able to expand our opportunities to help students and families develop healthy lives.”

Developing Healthy Kids puts on public programs each year around topics such as teen depression and internet safety. D.A.R.E., which addresses substance abuse, bullying and other risk issues, is offered to Rockford fifth-graders and middle school students.

Both programs are valued at Bridgeway, which donated all the profits from its Ninja Warrior event held last August, said Senior Pastor Ron Aulbach.

“Student health is something we care about,” said Aulbach, who has four children in Rockford Public Schools and a fifth who recently graduated. “We believe strongly in building up strong bodies, strong minds and strong spiritual souls. We want to make the community a better place because we’re a part of it.”

He said he expects continued church support for the school system, noting that Rockford Ninja Warrior is becoming a separate nonprofit. Bridgeway is renovating a dilapidated old paper mill at 7700 Childsdale Ave. NE into a new church and recreation area.


Bridgeway Community Church

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles's full bio.


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