LARNED — The 6-foot-6 bronze Indian statue featuring stunning detail is dedicated to Larned football fans everywhere.
One of the plaques at Earl Roberts Field pays tribute to Brandon Bartz’s late father Michael with the inscription — “For the Love of the Game.”
Michael Bartz died during the summer of 2013 due to a heart attack just before Brandon played high school football with his brother Jeromy at Larned High School. Their parents, Michael and Sandi, were Larned High sweethearts destined to be together.
Michael Bartz played on Larned’s 1985 playoff team. Eighteen years later, Michael Bartz never got a chance to see his sons compete in a 2013 playoff game.
Brandon said he wanted people to remember his father’s work behind the scenes to promote the local Western Kansas Junior Football League.
“My dad loved junior-tackle football and always wanted youngsters to experience the chance to play football and learn life’s lessons from the game. He grew up loving football.”
Brandon wanted the Indian statue to be built first-class. He ordered it from “Bronzeman,” in Los Angeles.
The website writes — “All of our bronze sculptures are hand crafted and cast in the ancient ‘Lost Wax Process,’ which captures incredible detail and results in a higher quality bronze sculpture.”
“It was very expensive,” Brandon said. “But when the people knew why I was making the statue, I think they sent my project to the top of the list.”
Every time a donation arrived, Brandon thought of his father, who had performed good work for others because it knew it was the right thing to do. Major $2,500 contributors were the Bartz Family, Kyle and Tamara Beckwith, Lewis Young, Jim and Suzan Haynes and the Larned Junior Indian Football Club.
“I knew most of the people who donated personally. I knew when they gave donations it was because of what my dad has done for others over the years,” he said. “It had nothing to do with me. People have been awesome.”
Larned High teacher Janet Fleske knew Brandon had the passion to raise more than $35,000 in donations for the most ambitious “Do Hard Things,” English project she’s ever witnessed.
“Brandon’s project was special because he first had a ‘why’ for his project — to give honor to his dad and to the sport he loved,” Fleske said. “He then came up with the idea of the Indian. That’s why the project was so successful — he had the ‘why’ before he had the idea.”
Brandon first got the idea of creating a life-size Indian statue when he saw a stuffed Eagle at Kingman High School last year.
Fleske said Brandon achieved the valuable lesson of engaging others to help with a project.
“It’s to help them learn to achieve something that is too big to do alone,” Fleske said. “They learn to work with others, learn how to overcome obstacles, and learn to self-reflect.”
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