Posted: Friday, 08 February 2013 11:22PM

Million Dollar gift helps Galena renovate gymnasium




The new Galena high school gymnasium came with a million-dollar price tag.  But none of that money came at the tax payers' expense.  It was all private funding.  And in fact, it all came from one person. 

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Leland Hancock was in Galena's Class of 1961 before moving away to California where he became a wealthy real estate developer.  In late 2011, he returns to southwest Missouri for the funeral of his cousin, Mel Hancock, the well-known politician and during his visit, he decided to drop by his old high school and talk with superintendent Danny Humble.

"He kind of noticed that the gym was exactly the same as it was when he graduated in the early '60's," Humble recalled.

"He told me the roof leaked and they couldn't play ballgames when the roof leaked," Hancock remembered.

"He donated a million dollars for the project," Humble added.

"We were fortunate and done well and give something back to the community," Hancock explained as to why he wanted to donate the money.

"A month later we actually had to cancel a boys basketball game because the gym was leaking due to the rain," Humble said.  "So it was good timing for all this to occur."
   
The "all this" includes a new floor, wooden bleachers replaced by plastic seats, and an entirely new seating section on one side of the gym with some chairback seats.
   
The new facility holds over 1,100 people--twice as many as the old one.  And most importantly, that rain doesn't leak anymore.
   
And after playing their first 19 games away from home this season, the Galena boys and girls teams finally had a their first home games on the night of the gym dedication.  Hancock was given a standing ovation by the fans, which left him in tears.
   
"I'm very honored and almost embarrassed that they did that," Hancock said.  "I'm just emotional.  I've got my mom's tear ducts.  She couldn't even bless the food without crying, so after she died I kind of inherited that."
   
Hancock isn't the only one who got emotional.  The students have been inspired by one of their own who's made it big.
   
"They know they can do the same thing," athletic director David Sherer said.  "It gives them a glimmer of hope.  I can just tell by the way they walk, the way they talk, the way they act in the halls. It's just different."

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