The Dive In Yankton (DIY) effort received a million more reasons to be thankful during this week’s holiday.
The Mike, Cindy Huether and Kylie Huether Family Foundation — with the two Yankton natives and their daughter as officers — has pledged $1 million toward the $14.8 million proposed aquatic center.
The Huethers’ gift pushed the DIY fundraising effort past the $2 million mark in private donations, according to DIY marketing director Kasi Haberman. More than 300 individuals and businesses have contributed to the fundraising effort, she said.
Yankton voters will head to the polls Dec. 11 for a referendum on a city bond issue for the proposed aquatic center. The new facility would replace the current 71-year-old pool in Fantle Memorial Park.
Mike and Cindy Huether, who now live in Sioux Falls, attended Tuesday’s announcement of their $1 million gift. The Beadle School setting held special memories for Mike, who attended the elementary school while Cindy went to Stewart School.
"It’s great to be back home. This is our home, this is our hometown, and we are so proud to be from Yankton. It’s even more special at Beadle, my alma mater," Mike said. "I remember Beadle School so fondly. Thank you for allowing us to hold this press conference here at Beadle."
Mike started recalling the specialness of Yankton residents who supported the couple while they were growing up. In particular, he offered thanks to those who helped him through difficult times as a youngster and teenager.
At that point, he became emotional and asked the students in the audience to join him up front for moral support. The group represented the student council at each of the Yankton School District buildings, from elementary to middle and high school, according to Superintendent Wayne Kindle.
KEEPING HOMETOWN TIES
The Huethers are perhaps best known for their eight-year role in Sioux Falls city leadership. Mike served two terms as mayor, leaving office last May under term limits. During that time, Cindy served as first lady and with various organizations.
But the couple has never forgotten Yankton and those who gave them a firm foundation, Mike said.
"We’re very proud of our Yankton roots, and these Yankton roots, folks, are very strong," he said. "We are so thankful for the support that we received in our life and this life journey from citizens of Yankton — teachers, coaches, mentors, churches — all those people who rallied around Cindy and I over the years. It just made a phenomenal difference."
Mike encouraged the students at Tuesday’s announcement to pursue their own dreams and to believe that anything — including the aquatic center — can be achieved.
"Those dreams can become a reality. Don’t let anybody talk you out of pursuing your dreams. There were times (growing up) in Yankton where I was struggling. I was mad, I was sad and I was figuring out what was going to happen on this life journey," he said.
"But if you work for it, study for it and pray for it, good things happen. And in the town of Yankton, good things are happening here. But there is so much work yet to do. Why not take these days that God gives us and make it even better, even more special? That’s why we’re here today."
Mike related how he received moral support from Yankton residents while he was Sioux Falls mayor, cementing an already strong bond the couple held with their childhood home.
"You struggled, you had some doubts creep in and you look for those additional prayers and support," he said. "We knew we could count on those additional prayers and support from the town of Yankton. We just can’t thank you enough for cheering us on over the years."
But the support went beyond them as a couple, Mike said. Yankton residents showed an excitement about Sioux Falls’ accomplishments, such as the new events center, impacting Yankton and the rest of South Dakota.
"And now we have the chance, being from Yankton, to cheer on you folks, too," he told Tuesday’s audience. "When Yankton succeeds, South Dakota succeeds. We need you to have this be a success. Yankton needs a win, South Dakota needs a win and you can help make this happen. Cindy, Kylie and I are cheering you on at the highest level."
The aquatic center would boost Yankton’s economic development and quality of life, Mike said. The project would also provide a confidence boost reflecting the community’s reputation of taking on any challenge.
"When I graduated from Yankton, we weren’t the biggest; we didn’t have the largest enrollment, but we had a confidence level that was unmatched across this great state," he said. "When you competed against Yankton, you knew you were in a dog fight and we were going to win."
During Tuesday’s press conference, Mike offered a message to Yankton’s senior citizens, who he described as "the active generation." He commended them for the community’s heritage and achievements, but he also encouraged them to lay the foundation for the town’s legacy.
"I implore you, please vote ‘yes’ (in the Dec. 11 election) and leave things even better than the way we found them," he said.
Yankton resident Duke Ellingson, who formerly served on the City Commission, offered remarks during Tuesday’s press conference.
Ellingson noted he was born in spring 1947, when the current pool was opened. "That’s a long time ago, but I’m in better shape than the pool," he said with a laugh.
Ellingson recalled the impact that the current pool has made on his life, from his childhood through today.
"The current pool has outlived its usefulness and needs to be replaced with the aquatic center," he said. "For the sake of the kids, parents and the community, please vote ‘yes’ for the new aquatic center. People, vote with your heart, not with your wallet."
Yankton Mayor Nathan Johnson noted the timing of Tuesday’s announcement two days before Thanksgiving and three weeks before the referendum election.
He expressed thankfulness to the Huethers and the DIY committee for their investment and belief in the aquatic center. He also expressed thankfulness to the more than 300 individuals and businesses who have donated more than $2 million in private funds.
He noted the proposed aquatic center’s features that would serve people of all ages. The amenities would also attract people looking for a strong quality of life.
"In short, it’s not only a source of recreation but also one of economic development," he said. "I’m thankful we have so many people willing to come together to get this aquatic center for Yankton."
The Huethers have provided an inspiration with their gift, Johnson said.
"Mike and Cindy Huether may not have a physical address in Yankton anymore, but their hearts are certainly still here," the mayor said. "They remain engaged in their hometown, and they continue to invest in their hometown"
The Huethers’ gift provides a reminder of the generous nature of Yankton and the surrounding region, Johnson said. He asked for the same giving nature to "get this project past the finish line."
"I applaud Mike and Cindy for diving in with a ‘Yes’ for Yankton,’ and I hope the citizens of Yankton will join them by voting ‘yes’ on Dec. 11," he said.
DIY chairman Josh Svatos asked the committee members in attendance to come forward. "It’s been quite a journey during the last 18 months," he said.
After the press conference, Mike Huether told the Press & Dakotan that his family’s gift reflects their Christian faith and belief in giving back.
"We believe in the stewardship prayer: ‘Lord, help us be good stewards; to share your time, talents and treasure is an outward sign of our love,’" he said.
Mike noted the importance of all Yankton citizens to vote in next month’s referendum.
"It’s so critical to get out the vote. We have had several times where people were so confident something would pass that they didn’t vote, and then it failed," he said.
"For this election, you must make the investment of time to get out and vote. The people of Yankton want this for their town, and they deserve it. The time is now."
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