Overcoming Obstacles: A Donation from Neal Communities Advances the Construction of an Obstacle Course for the Venice High School Junior ROTC Program

Photo Caption:  US Marine Corps Captain (Retired) Dean Krom, bottom left, with student Midshipmen in the Navy/Marine Corps ROTC program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. A similar obstacle course will be constructed at Venice High School with help from a financial contribution and a donation of fill dirt from Neal Communities.

LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla. (November 17, 2023) – Eight years ago, retired US Marine Corps Captain Dean Krom joined the staff at Venice High School to lead the JROTC program. Since his first day with the program, he joined efforts with Master Gunnery Sergeant Frank Troxel to build an obstacle course at VHS.

Krom’s last active-duty assignment was leading the Navy/Marine Corps ROTC program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, where he oversaw the construction of a similar obstacle course based on the Marine Corps standards.

“An obstacle course is a staple for any ROTC or JROTC program, but it’s not just for us. It’s for any teacher, sports team or student that wants to use it.,” says Krom. “We use it to teach teamwork and camaraderie, esprit de corps and resilience. Many won’t be able to get over the second obstacle – a bar set seven feet up in the air – but hopefully with some training and hard work, they will. Maybe not as freshman or sophomores, but by the time they graduate we hope they will – and that’s a huge confidence builder.”

In addition to benefitting the JROTC students at Venice High School, the obstacle course will allow Krom to invite other JROTC groups to come to the school for training and competitions. That will help raise funds for the program, reducing the reliance on parents for donations and support. This will allow the Cadets to get out into the community and do more community service instead of fundraising.

Construction of the obstacle course will total nearly $100,000 and involves raising the level of the ground 12 inches. The school approved the project, but not the funding, meaning Krom and the JROTC program needed to raise the money themselves.

Fundraising began almost six years ago, and there have been many challenges, including getting approval through the School Board, the pandemic and, most recently, hurricanes. The outlook improved when Neal Communities learned of the project and its unique needs.

“We’re donating 25 truckloads of dirt to make the foundation of the course,” said Pat Neal, founder and chairman of Neal Communities. “The course is roughly 36 feet wide and 370 feet long, and they need to raise the ground level up by a foot. That’s a lot of dirt, but moving dirt is something we know a lot about. It was a requirement of the school’s approval and we’re happy we can help.”

According to Krom, the donation from Neal Communities, valued between $10,000 and $15,000, comes at a critical time for the project. “Since we began fundraising, the cost of everything has doubled, including the dirt and the steel poles. Neal Communities has jumped in at a very, very important time and donated the dirt that will be the foundation of the course,” says Krom. “It’s the very first requirement, so to have Neal Communities helping us get the ball rolling is huge. We’re also very excited to be working with Jon F. Swift Construction on the build.”

Neal Communities has a philanthropic culture and a core belief that “Where You Live Matters.” The latest giving is part of more than $7.75 million Neal Communities has donated to local charities and causes throughout Southwest Florida.

For more information about Neal Communities, visit NealCommunities.com.

Top photos show a similar obstacle course at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. Bottom photo shows the site plan for the obstacle course at Venice High School. Additional high-res photos of the Embry-Riddle obstacle course are available upon request.

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About Neal Communities
Neal Communities, based in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, is Southwest Florida’s largest and most established locally owned and operated private builder. During the company’s 50-year history, it has built more than 20,000 new homes in more than 90 acclaimed communities from Tampa to Naples. The company consistently ranks among the nation’s top 100 home builders and has earned numerous awards including the prestigious Builder of the Year from Professional Builder in 2015 and America’s Best Builder in 2012 from BUILDER Magazine. With a core belief that “Where You Live Matters,” Neal Communities has given more than $7.75 million to local charities throughout Southwest Florida and is committed to the communities where they live, work and build. Company sales in fiscal year 2022 were just over $600 million.

Additional Neal Communities brands include Neal Signature Homes, SimplyDwell Homes, Charlene Neal PureStyle, Waterscapes Pools & Spas, Neal Communities Funding and Allegiant Title Professionals. For more information, visit NealCommunities.com.

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