Local documentary will tell Bishop Lillis High School’s 1961 basketball championship story
High school alumnus partners with DeLaSalle Education Center to bring triumphant tale to life
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Nov. 10, 2014)- An upcoming documentary, “Together We’re Stronger,” will revisit the unique story of Kansas City’s Bishop Lillis High School’s 1961 basketball team that defied odds to win the Missouri state championship while finishing the season 29-0.
The film will feature exclusive interviews with team members along with capturing the inspiring story of the building’s current occupant, DeLaSalle Education Center.
When Lillis closed its doors in 1979, DeLaSalle Education Center moved to the location with a similar caring commitment to education. As an alternative high school, it provides students ages 14-20 who are out of options with an additional opportunity to complete their high school education.
This story is being brought to life by Lillis alumnus Larry Schnieders. He will serve as the film’s executive producer. A successful former corporate executive who graduated from Lillis in 1969, he is passionate about the story and his high school’s legacy.
“Simply because Lillis is no longer around does not erase the fond memories that so many of its graduates, like me, have about our time there,” Schnieders said. “The school was a special, spirited place. It instilled the belief in me and countless others that we could achieve beyond expectations.”
To begin the project in January as scheduled, the crowd-funding site, Kickstarter, will be utilized to gain financial support. Schnieders and DeLaSalle need the help of others to see the film to completion. A 30-day campaign began November 7 in an effort to raise $18,000.
DeLaSalle Education Center provides a unique learning environment to students as an alternative charter high school, the last remaining of its kind in Missouri. Charter schools are tuition-free and independently run. Alternative schools use nontraditional curriculum to provide an individualized education to students. DeLaSalle combines these concepts into a charter school with an alternative-style curriculum.
Current enrollment has reached the school’s capacity of 300 students with a waiting list, validating the need for its important mission. DeLaSalle relies on donations and fundraisers to provide at-risk youth a personalized education to improve learning and life skills.
‘“Together We’re Stronger” is designed to introduce a new audience to DeLaSalle,” Schnieders said. He envisions the film can be a vehicle to raise awareness and funds for the midtown Kansas City school. After production is completed, all rights and proceeds will belong to DeLaSalle for use in future funding initiatives.
“I am thrilled by the opportunity the ‘Together We’re Stronger’ project offers to link the past with the present,” said Mark Williamson, DeLaSalle Education Center’s executive director. “The stories of the Lillis basketball team and the students of the current-day DeLaSalle Education Center are both reflections of persistence and perseverance. These are stories that should be told.”
The players from this championship team also went on to lead successful adult lives. Don Dee won an Olympic gold medal for basketball in 1968, later playing professionally for the Indiana Pacers. Others became respected educators, business owners, company presidents and even a twice-elected mayor of Omaha, Nebraska.
Through A Glass Productions from Lawrence, Kansas will be the production company for “Together We’re Stronger”. Award-winning director, Chris Blunk, will use his expansive media background in directing, sound mixing, writing and producing when serving as director of this film.
“Together We’re Stronger” is a documentary connecting the stories of two Kansas City high schools, in one special place that has stood test of time in educating young people who have overcome odds–and are still doing so today–to come out winners in life. Bishop Lillis High School was founded by Bishop, (later Archbishop), Edwin Vincent O’Hara with 100 students. The school reached its peak admission in 1946 with nearly 700 students. Lillis closed in 1979 due to decreasing enrollment and increasing costs. DeLaSalle Education Center is part of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s (UMKC) Charter School Center. It was established in 1971 as a tuition-free charter school that provides an alternative to the traditional high school setting. For more information, please visit “Together We’re Stronger” on Facebook and Twitter or check out the Kickstarter page.