AFoCR Completes Major Project to Rebuild Sokol Gymnasium Destroyed by Industrial Explosion in West, Texas
November 20, 2015, marked a major milestone in the recovery of West, Texas. The Sokol West gymnasium, for which ground was broken exactly one year before, was dedicated in a joyous celebration and ribbon cutting ceremony. The Sokol gym, along with a significant portion of the town, was destroyed in the April 17, 2013, explosion of the West Fertilizer Plant. Shortly after this tragedy, AFoCR Chairman Fred Malek went to West to assess the damage, and rebuilding the Sokol gymnasium has been a major project of AFoCR over the past two years. AFoCR Director Fritz Duda, a Dallas real estate developer, actively assisted in the design and planning, and AFoCR lead the fundraising effort, which was kicked off with a $200,000 grant from the government of the Czech Republic. Mr. Duda, Mr. Malek, and Czech entrepreneur Zdeněk Bakala each made gifts of $100,000. Finally, individual AFoCR donors collectively contributed almost $100,000.
Construction of the project began in November 2014 with a groundbreaking attended by Czech Prime Minister Sobotka and Texas Governor Rick Perry. Mr. Malek spoke about his appreciation of the importance of Sokol while growing up in Berwyn, a suburb of Chicago with strong Czech traditions, and the importance the Sokol facility was to the community in West. He noted that helping Czech communities with recovery when tragedy strikes is a key AFoCR priority.
Special guests at the dedication included Czech Ambassador Petr Gandalovič, current Texas Governor Greg Abbott, AFoCR directors, and leaders of the American Sokol Organization. Governor Abbott and Mary Beth Dulock, Secretary of Sokol West, cut the symbolic red ribbon to open the new gym, alongside Ambassador Gandalovič and Mr. Malek. In his remarks, Mr. Malek congratulated the city of West on its enormously successful recovery and expressed his sense of privilege that AFoCR could play a key role in the creation of the new facility. At the close of the ceremony AFoCR directors Robert Doubek and Phil Kasik unveiled a plaque acknowledging the major contributors to the project. The master of ceremonies for the dedication was Bob Podhrasky, First Vice President of American Sokol and President of Sokol Southern District.