December 20, 2013

Medal of Honor recipient, Sal Giunta on Brian's Foundation and the scholarship in his name

The Sal Giunta Scholarship of Honor is awarded annually at his alma mater, John F. Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The scholarship will honor the soldiers he tried to save, SGT Josh Brennan and SPC Hugo Mendoza. It will continue Sal’s legacy and allow SGT Brennan and SPC Mendoza's spirit to live on.

It had been over 40 years since a living Medal of Honor recipient was awarded our nation’s highest military honor. SSG Sal Giunta was the first living person to receive the United States Armed Froces' highest decoration for valor for actions that occurred after the Vietnam War.

December 3, 2013

You still have a chance to see 'Return to Pilsen!'

General Patton's Grandson, George Patton Waters the night of 11.12.13
Thanks to WLUK-FOX 11 in Green Bay, Wisconsin, we were able to share and premiere a very special documentary on our General George S. Patton Scholarship of Honor in Pilsen Czech Republic on 11.12.13.

The documentary also highlights the love the citizens of the Czech Republic have for Americans for helping liberate their country.  You won't want to miss it!

The film rebroadcast, commercial-free thanks to Amerprise Auto and Home Insurance on these dates:

December 14 – 5:00 PM

And on on CW14
Sunday, December 8:00 AM at 12 noon

You can also view it online here!

December 2, 2013

What a night! 11.12.13

We knew the numerical day of 11.12.13 was a special one, but for Brian's Foundation it was amazing and memorable. We hope our 900 guests felt the same.

We packed a lot into one night, but thanks to dozens of folks behind the scenes and our amazing friend, board member and master of ceremonies, Darrel Burnett it was flawless.

As I sat next to Mom and Dad in the beautiful Meyer Theatre, I was in awe. I recognized many people from our community and also many people who I was seeing for the first time. The people around us laughed, they cried at touching moments and when they clapped I could feel their love and support with each sound.

Mayor Martin Baxa, Pilsen Czech Republic
We had many people who traveled to Green Bay, Wisconsin during the week of November 12th. For some it was their first time in the United States! The Mayor of Pilsen in the Czech Republic, Martin Baxa arrived at the very, very quiet Green Bay Airport on a Saturday night beaming, "This is my first time in the U.S." 

My first reaction to Mayor Baxa's comment was, "oh and it is winter weather here in Green Bay already" but we couldn't have been happier. Most of you know I live in North Carolina and when I travel back to Wisconsin, I am reminded of the kindness, the friendless and the warmth of the is the heartland of America.

FOX 11's Mark Leland in Pilsenthis past May
Mayor Baxa gave a heartfelt speech that night (In English!). It was very powerful and energized the audience. We will share his special speech and the entire evening with you when we receive the recording from the event. It was incredibly moving. 

One of the reasons for their visit was for the premiere viewing a documentary done by WLUK FOX 11 on Pilsen's liberation festival, their love for Americans and our Scholarship there. 

Another special moment was having our first Brian LaViolette Scholarship recipient in town from South Carolina. He is no stranger to the cold weather, since he grew up here and was actually friends with Brian. Thanks to a board member's donation of air miles he could join us! 

We loved having him with us and know the audience was happy to see our first recipient... 20 years later. 

 And there was MAGIC! Justin Flom was astounding and performed many tricks, including an interactive card trick with the audience. As you know there are 52 cards in a deck and we have 52 scholarships presented annually. The audiences' costume deck featured one of our scholarships on each card! 

Look at my face as he performed this one...ha ha,but seriously how did he do that?!  

The Green Bay Preble Chamber Choir performed beautifully. Several soloists were also past scholarship recipients! Green Bay Preble Chamber Choir We had many more impactful speeches and touching moments on 11.12.13, including that our 'foundation family' has grown even more. 

 *All these beautiful photos (except the one of Mark Leland) are by friend and board member, Kim Klein Photography

November 4, 2013

The U.S. Postal Service Unveils the General George S. Patton Commemorative Envelope and Cancellation Stamp by Artist Nicolosi

November 11th is a very special day for our country.  Veteran's Day has been observed in our country since 1919.  General George S. Patton was born on the same day 34 years prior.

Thanks to artist, Nicolosi and the USPS, this very special commemorative envelope and cancellation stamp will be unveiled on November 11th in Green Bay, Wisconsin. 

November 11th is a very special day for our country.  Veteran's Day has been observed in our country since 1919.  General George S. Patton was born on the same day 34 years prior.

Thanks to artist, Nicolosi and the USPS, this very special commemorative envelope and cancellation stamp will be unveiled on November 11th in Green Bay, Wisconsin. 

We will be joined by General Patton's Grandson, George Patton "Pat" Waters and the artist, Nicolosi.  Both will be signing the signing the envelopes which will be 
Pat Waters
General Patton's Grandson,
George Patton Waters
available for purchase.  Part of the proceeds will go to Brian's Foundation!  

Green Bay's Post Master will also be there, as well as, a representative from the Czech Embassy and other local dignitaries.  

The public is invited to the unveiling on November 11th right before the United Patriotic Society of Green Bay's program at 10:00 am at Shopko Hall, 1901 S. Oneida St. Green Bay, WI 54304.  

This commemorative piece will be signed by both Nicolosi and Pat Waters.  If you can't make the unveiling, you can purchase online here.

October 12, 2013

ONE month from today!!

In just ONE month we will gather for a very special evening in downtown Green Bay!

Yes, the date is 11.12.13, because that is what we do. Some of you may remember our events on 9.9.99 and 11.11.11, but this one is unlike any we have ever attempted.

We have so many exciting things planned for the night, but to truly feel the impact, we highly encourage you and your family to be there!

A few highlights to expect on November 12th

  • More details on the General George S. Patton Scholarship of Honor we established in Pilsen.  This year we were grateful to Bob Nueske for the opportunity to have WLUK Fox 11's very own Mark Leland and Tim Flanigan document Pilsen's Liberation Festival.
 11.12.13 will be the premiere viewing of a very special documentary on Pilsen, its  citizens and the love they have for America to this day.

  • You will hear from 'ordinary people' who have gone on to do extraordinary things across this great land, including some of the Foundation's past scholarship recipients and Czech Republic dignitaries. 
  • The Green Bay Preble High School Vocal Ensemble which includes former scholarship recipients will perform throughout the evening.
  • Jaw-dropping entertainment by magician Justin Flom will leave you in awe. At 26 years old, Just in Flom is known around the world for his magic. Growing up in the Midwest, he started performing at a young age. After high school he toured with professional magicians and now regularly takes the stage at Hollywood's Magic Castle and has performed in 26 countries and on the Ellen DeGeneres show.

Tickets are going incredibly fast!  Get yours now at or at 800-895-0071

October 2, 2013

Across the Ocean...

I am excited to share a wonderful opportunity I had with you.  Thanks to a generous personal gift from my Aunt Sue LeTourneau, who is also a board member of Brian's Foundation, I was able to visit and meet with the Nidzica Community Foundation (Nidzicki Fundusz Lokalny) in Poland.

What a special time!  We partnered with the Nidzica Foundation 10 years ago and this year we presented our 60th scholarship there, totally $41,000.00.    
This was our first visit to meet them and after communicating with them through email for years, I was grateful for the chance to shake their hands, look them in the eyes and see their life.

These two great men picked me up from the airport...

Andrzej (my 'go to' for the past 10 years) and his son Lukasz.  They made me feel welcome the minute I stepped off the airplane.

I was able to spend three days with them... they showed me the area (which was beautiful), introduced me to so many remarkable people and on the last day, I had a chance to meet with past and current scholarship recipients and take part in the scholarship presentation.  

This is their Foundation headquarters.  Isn't it beautiful?  

It is in this sweet, collaborative pottery village which included other organizations. Did I mention that I learned how to make pottery for the first time from someone who spoke entirely in Polish?

Oh and umm, this is where I the castle hotel, which is from the 13th century!

But one of the most joyous things for me was meeting the recipients and being part of the scholarship presentation.  

We have three incredible family sponsors (The Robert D. Nueske Family, Dr. and Sue Smullen and the Weyers Family Foundation)who award two scholarships a year to recipients in the Nidzica area.

Here are the names of this years' recipients and their field of studies.

Mateusz Smoliński Management and production engineering, Main Agriculture-School in Warsaw         

Krzysztof Szczephkowski Applied Linguistics, University in Gdansk

Renata Bruzdziak-Finance and Accounting-Main Trade School in Warsaw (School of Economics)

Małgorzata Młyńska--Environmental Protection, University of Warsaw

Daniel Traczewski-Economics/Finance and Accounting/Computer Science and Econometrics, University in Warsaw

Aneta Rudzińska-Materials Engineering, Politechnic in Gdansk

And the man on the left, Jarosaw Pluciennik, was our first scholarship recipient in Poland!  He now helps with their foundation.

I am so happy to share a small part of this visit with you.  Their kindness, graciousness and positive spirit will remain with me always.

August 19, 2013

Thanks to the Green Bay Press Gazette for covering our story...

AUGUST 18th--Doug LaViolette looks back 70 years at the carnage wrought by the Second World War and sees the good in humanity. “Look at the terrible things humanity has gone through and survived, and gone on to do good things in places where terrible things occurred,” he said. “I’m very optimistic and very moved.”

The Brian LaViolette Foundation was formed in the memory of Doug’s son, who drowned in August 1992 near Chambers Island. He was buried on Aug. 17, 1992. One of the more recent scholarship addition helps people in a Czech Republic city that still celebrates, and honors, the veterans who helped liberate it from the Germans in 1945.

 For the past two decades the foundation has been offering up scholarships to hundreds of area — and international — students. By the end of the year the foundation will have awarded 583 scholarships. “It’s not just the 583, it’s not just them that have been moved,” Doug Laviolette said about the impact of the scholarships from...continue reading article here: Two decades later, LaViolette scholarship program still touching lives and communities

August 12, 2013

Words from Brian himself

When Brian was in 8th grade, his class had the assignment of writing an autobiography. It has been fun for us to reference back to it over the years. 

Today marks the day Brian died 21 years ago.  In preparing to share something with you about Brian as a person, I went back to his own words.  

We hope you enjoy a few excerpts from his autobiography..
"Enough about me, let's talk about my dad.  His childhood reminds me of Tom Sawyer's.  He stole his neighbor's raspberries, threw pumpkins through city hall and wasn't a very good student.  

You may be wondering why I chose to tribute him.  Well, he puts everything he's got into everything he does.  He had a paper route that still puts a spark in his eye.   Out of all these reason, the main reason I wrote a tribute to my dad is because I love him." 

"My mom didn't let me have cap guns, so I used wooden spoons.  'Buffalo Bill" is what my parents used to call me.  I'd shoot down those imaginary buffalo so fast you couldn't even see it.  (I know it's sick humor)"


"Even though my room is my favorite place, I probably only spend about one-half hour of my waking hours in it. Where I spend most of my time is in the city where I live.  One thing I really like about the city is you can walk to some of your neighbor's houses and get some type of game going.  There is always something to do in the city."


"One thing I never get tired of is playing soccer.  I love soccer more than any other sport there is.  It was my first league sport and I'm glad it was.  I started in kindergarten and I'm still playing."  

 "Let me tell you about a person who was, and is, very special to me.  This person I owe my life to, and I'm not exaggerating one bit.  She brought me into this world.  She has taught me right from wrong and always finds a way to make me grin.  

One thing that she has taught me that I will never forget is the value of trust.  That five letter word has helped me throughout my life.  Even more important than trust is a four letter word that will always be between"


"It happened in kindergarten during the morning announcements.  Many of you may think this was no big deal but I was the first kindergartner picked that year.  I also beat out the whole school!  At first I didn't know who to react, it was as if a freight train had just hit me.  I was picked for Winner of the Week!"

"Being the oldest of the siblings in our family isn't too bad.  My sister and I don't fight, she does what I tell her but I don't boss her around a lot.  Our parents treat us generally the same too.  I just hope the rest of my life will be this nice."


"This autobiography has dusted off my shelf of memories, and that I am glad of.  I just hope you enjoyed reading this more than I did writing it." 

July 29, 2013

Supporting some across the globe...update from one of our Poland Scholarship recipients

In 2009 I started bachelor’s studies and I received scholarship from your foundation first time. It was a huge distinction for me which motivated and still motivates me to hard work. This journey happily came to the end but I have started the new one (master’s studies) and once again had a pleasure to be one of your scholars. It is amazing feeling for me to be awarded your scholarship and for this I would like to thank you.

You inspired me to broaden my knowledge and to develop my skills. During the bachelor studies I tried to study hard and take first steps on my career path. My efforts were awarded and I was granted rector’s scholarship and gained professional experience in IBM and Colgate-Palmolive. I was also invited by Bank of America Merrill Lynch to participate in its Spring Insight Program in London. It was a huge accomplishment for me since I was the only participant from Polish universities.

 On master studies I am pursuing special course preparing for obtaining ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) qualification. Two weeks ago I have also started an internship in Royal Bank of Scotland. I hope that both the course and the training will enrich my knowledge and skills and help my finding an interesting job in the future.

Your scholarship also inspired me to help others. It was an incentive for me to contribute to the community and to work as a volunteer. Thanks to you I become a math tutor in a primary school and help students with math and Polish. I trust that is this way I can contribute to building a better society.

Words cannot describe fully my gratitude for people like you but I hope that my work make you proud. Thank you for giving me inspiration.

Kind regards, Renata Bruzdziak

July 5, 2013

"What does this Scholarship mean to you?"

“As I was sitting, waiting to hear my name called all I could think is if there was one award I wanted to win. This scholarship is honor to hold. Brian sounds like a remarkable man, who is inspiring to many, including me, to go far in life. I am so thankful to be able to uphold his name and my complete respect goes to you and your family. Thank you for the chance to follow Brian’s words and continue my journey.”

--Caroline Heyka, 2013 Journey is the Reward Scholarship, OHS

"I was thrilled to learn of my selection for this honor! I am deeply appreciative of your support. Thank you for your generous, financial assistance towards my higher education. I was deeply touched by the words of wisdom that are inscribed on the back of the Scholarship of Honor medal. I will proudly display it with honor. I want to make a difference. Thanks for your confidence in me; you reaffirm that my dreams are possible. I am one step closer to my goal because of you. You have made a huge difference in my life.” 

--Ashely Burrows, 2013 Elmer Burr and Ken Stumpf Scholarship of Honor recipient

 “I would like to thank you and the other members of the Brian LaViolette Scholarship Foundation for the James Cathey Scholarship of Honor. As I have also chosen to join the military after high school, Lieutenant Cathey is an inspiration to me. He is a true role model for more, so I am honored to receive this prestigious award. This scholarship will be very helpful for my fees at West Point, so I cannot thank you enough for this scholarship. I wish you all the best of luck in the years to come."

--Brent Bremer, 2013 James Cathey Scholarship of Honor recipient

"The scholarship evening went very well. Jordon is such a quality young man. He was SO honored and excited to receive this award. I think you can tell that by his big smile in the photo. It was a pleasure to present to him. As you can see, he’s wearing the medal proudly. Thank you for this opportunity."

 --Kate Bradley, daughter of John Bradley.  There is a Scholarship of Honor paying tribute to her dad.

 “This scholarship means a lot to me because it recognizes my passion for helping others. I want to serve my community through medical means and with this scholarship I will be better able to.”

 --Katianne Rath, 2013 Joe Welke Scholarship of Honor at Appleton West High School

 “Receiving this award means a lot to me. Joel is a person I really look up to and admire. I hope that the decisions I have made this past semester would have made him proud.”

--Benjamin Petry, 2013 Joel Gentz Scholarship of Honor recipient

“As I sat in the audience, watching and listening to the story about Ken Hess and how the scholarship came about, I was touched by the story and awe struck by the courage of one particular soldier. As the master sergeant began speaking about the recipient, never did I once consider that he was talking about me. Receiving the scholarship was an incredible honor.

The money will be a big help for school next year and the medal is a reminder of the incredible bravery and dedication that the men and women serving have to our country. I will continue to volunteer, knowing that it will never be as courageous as our soldiers, but hoping that whatever difference I can make in the community a meaningful one. “

 --Nicole Madle, 2013 Ken Hess Scholarship of Honor

“I was very happy and appreciative to learn that I was selected as the recipient of your scholarship. By awarding me the Robert C. Safford Scholarship, you have lightened my financial burden which allows me to focus on the most important aspect of school-learning.  Your generosity has inspired me to continue to help others and give back to the community.  I hope one day I will be able to help students achieve their goals just as you have helped me.”

--Brett Samuelson, 2013 Robert C. Safford Scholarship recipient

“This scholarship is very meaningful.  It is going towards good use to pay for college, which will include purchasing my uniform for the fire program.  I already put some of it to use in paying for my state Firefighter 1 exam.  I passed the practical exam and will find out if I passed the written test in a couple weeks.  I am very thankful that I was chosen for this award and scholarship.  Especially knowing I went to the same high school as Ron. “

--Karen Arndt, 2013 Ron Sager Scholarship of Honor. 

 “This scholarship will allow me to pursue my dreams of teaching secondary education, and to always serve my community further. It is an extraordinary honor to receive this noble scholarship in honor of an incredibly respectable young man Danny Dietz. It is so cliché, but honestly this scholarship means the world to me and I cannot thank the Foundation enough for believing in me and allowing me to follow my dreams.”

 --Rachel Lukowicz, 2013 Danny Dietz Scholarship of Honor recipient

I feel truly honored to be the 2013 recipient of the Matt Atkinson Community Scholarship of Honor. It will not only help to provide tuition assistance, but also encourage me to keep doing the right thing in my school and throughout my community. Thank you!

--Kayla Skaletsia, 2013 Matt Atkinson Community Scholarship of Honor

 “I cannot thank you enough for the honor and privilege of receiving the General Foley Award of Honor. This award would not have been possible with your support through Brian’s Foundation. Thank you for reaching out to USMA and for giving me the privilege of meeting General and Mrs. Foley. General Foley’s wisdom and leadership is an example to me and many others. I hope to keep in touch and help your foundation in any way possible.”

 --Lorraine Saavedra, General Foley Scholarship of Honor recipient, 2013

 “This scholarship means more to me than the money. Brent was a part of my own family and is still my role model and is very close to my heart. I am very honored to hold an award like this in memory of him.” 

--Danielle Beck, 2013 Brent Vroman Scholarship of Honor recipient

 “I would like to thank you for providing support to a scholarship I received, the Ryan Jerabek Scholarship of Honor. I was very honored to receive such a prestigious scholarship. Thank you for everything you do for many people around the world.

Your constant dedication to help others is inspiring to me. I hope that my future career of being a high school math teacher will be as helpful to others as your foundation has been to many. I plan on attaining my goal by attending the University of Wisconsin Madison. We are blessed to have people like who care about American and still push American values. Once again thank you for all that you do for our country and thank you for your support to the Ryan Jerabek Scholarship of Honor. My family and I are very grateful to you.”

 -Emily Smithback, Ryan Jerabek Scholarship of Honor recipient

To see more testimonials from this year and in years past, please click here.

June 25, 2013

2013 Scholarship Recipients!

Phew, what a year so far!  We couldn't be happier with the recipients who recently received scholarships through Brian's Foundation. 

Out of the 37 scholarships we have awarded so far this year, 84% have plans to continue their education in a field where they can truly make a difference in their community or country.

They are our future.  They give us hope.

Each and everyone of them are a bright spot in the lives of others. We thank them in advance for continuing to make a difference in people's lives around them. 
2013 recipients so far, shown in bold.  (in order of presentation date)

Joel Gentz Scholarship: Benjamin Petry, United States Air Force

Sal Giunta Scholarship: Brandon Skaggs, Criminal Justice 

General George S. Patton Scholarship: Adela Tanzerova, Special Education

Matt Atkinson Community Scholarship: Kayla Skaletski, Social Work

Joe Welke Scholarship: Katianne Rath, Health Care

Ron Sager Scholarship:  Karen Arndt, Fire Protection 

Victoria Parmentier Scholarship: Alexis Dejardin, Elementary Education

Rachel Bosveld Scholarship:  Megan Moore, Pre-Med  

Kyle Hemauer Scholarship: Joshua Geiser, Criminal Justice 

Jerome Hatfield Scholarship: Hunter Guill, Pre-Med 

Andrew Brownfield Scholarship:  Bhim Sutar, Nursing

Isaiah Hunt Scholarship:  Aliece Kerscher, Nursing

Danny Dietz Scholarship: Rachel Lukowicz, Secondary Education

Robert Foley Scholarship: Larraine Saavedra, United States Army

Len Keller Scholarship: Martin Jimenez, Criminal Justice 

Brian LaViolette Scholarship: Lukas Butte, Pre-Med

Ryan Jerabek Scholarship: Emily Smithback, Secondary Education

Ben Edinger Scholarship: Melissa Shefchek, Nursing

John Bradley Scholarship: Christian J. Filipiak, Physician's Assistant 

James Cathey Scholarship:  Brent Bremer, United States Army

Brent Vroman Scholarship: Danielle Beck, Criminal Justice

Jesse Thiry Scholarship:  Grace Kanzenbach, Law Enforcement

Ken Hess Scholarship:  Nicole Madel, Pre-Med

Ollie Bogsted Scholarship: Hope Buhrandt, General Studies

"The Journey is the Reward" Scholarship: Danielle Fisher, General Studies

NWTC Scholarship-Suring High School: tba

Ken Kubsch Scholarship: Katherine Wolowicz, Education

Eric McColley Scholarship: Jason Altman, Aerospace Technology and ROTC

Nichole Frye Scholarship: Megan Roue, Criminal Justice 

Above and Beyond Scholarship: Logan Shallow, Pre-Med

Esther Cleveland Safford Scholarship: Savannah Libassi, Music Education

Robert Safford Scholarship: Brett Samuelson, Business Administration

"The Journey is the Reward" Scholarship (2): Caroline Heyka, Psychology and Scott VanHulle, Engineering

NWTC Scholarship-Oconto: Alexis Ermis, Healthcare 

Mike Colalillo Scholarship: Christopher Stolan, United States Air Force

Menasha Scholarship: Ashely Burrows, Criminal Justice

South Africa ScholarshipBrian Ntshikila, Teaching  

Tom Hudner: To be awarded in July

Nainoa Hoe Scholarship: To be awarded in August

Poland Scholarships (6): To be awarded in September

St. Norbert Scholarships (4): To be awarded in October 

Junior Achievement-Awarded during Business Challenge to Brenda Adamski in February

May 31, 2013

Tickets on sale NOW for 11.12.13!

You won't want to miss our next event, which will be on November 12, 2013 at the beautiful Meyer Theatre in downtown Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Click here for more information and to purchase your tickets.  They are reserved seats, so get them soon to reserve the best spot for you!

May 28, 2013

Pilsen Experience-in the words of Mark Leland

If you need a shot in the arm of patriotism, or an extra dose of pride for our American veterans, you might need to head out of the country to Pilsen in the Czech Republic. That's where I went in early May 2013 to document the European city's Liberation Festival honoring our World War II soldiers, who helped give the people of Pilsen their freedom in 1945.

Every person I met during the four-day festival was filled with gratitude for our American veterans. And not just the people who were around in '45, but the message has been passed down through the generations. These guys are heroes. This city really knows how to give thanks, and they remain thankful to this day to our U.S. soldiers. Keep in mind Communist control took over in 1948 and would last just over 40 years, but the people of Pilsen never forgot the service and sacrifice of our WWII veterans.

So in 1990 the annual Liberation Festival got started and is still going strong today. There is even a permanent "Thank you America" monument in the city where an American flag always flies.

I was amazed and impressed with the love shown by the people of Pilsen. And talking to our veterans, they are humbled every time they return to the festival--and many have made the trip back year after year because of the people. Imagine ten thousand or more people lining city streets for a parade featuring our World War II veterans riding in World War II Jeeps. It is a true sign of patriotism, of honor, of respect for our American veterans--and it's coming from another country.

I know we celebrate our veterans on Veteran's Day, the 4th of July and other occasions, but I've never witnessed a celebration like the one Pilsen put on. Bob Nueske, a veteran, businessman and someone I'd like to a call a friend, discovered this out of the way Liberation Festival several years ago. Bob invited me to go to Pilsen and paid for the news crew to travel to Pilsen, because he wanted others to discover what is happening over there.

He also helps to fund the General George S.Patton Scholarship of Honor from the Brian LaViolette Foundation in Pilsen started last year. It's a way to give back to the next generation in Pilsen, and the city is so appreciative that the awarding of the scholarship has become a part of the celebration. I can tell you how moving the festival is and you might get some idea of what I'm talking about.

Hopefully our news stories will better show you what you're missing. So I hope you'll check out the "Return to Pilsen" stories on, and then pack your bags and head to Pilsen--the celebration is always in early May.