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Local foundation receives the most holiest of watches

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 2:45 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 23, 2021 at 7:26 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - An update on a story we first brought you in August about a local foundation’s unique fundraising mission centered around time and a young boy’s love for watches

In 1992, Brian LaViolette was just 15-years old when he tragically drowned in the Bay of Green Bay.

Since then, a foundation in his honor has awarded more than 1,000 scholarships to high school seniors around the country totaling $900,000.

In an effort to sustain scholarships for decades to come, the Brian LaViolette Scholarship Foundation has launched a $1.5 million capital campaign, which includes The Watch Project.

Watches from famous people like Jerry Lewis, Priscilla Presley and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud will go up for auction in February.

Now, a new watch to the collection is certain to gain international attention.

A year ago this month, Doug LaViolette went to his longtime friend Mike Calawerts with an idea that took him by surprise.

LaViolette wanted to acquire a watch from Pope Francis.

“He’s like you have any idea how to do that, how would I do that and I’m like Doug, that’s the craziest idea I ever heart of, we could go after Aaron Rodgers or a lot of other people, we might have a better chance getting Vince Lombardi,” says Calawerts with a chuckle.

As fate would have it, Brian LaViolette’s best friend, Austin Rios, who was with him the day he drowned, is a priest in Rome and has stayed close with the LaViolette family.

He immediately went to work opening doors at the Vatican.

“I saw some potential ways in which we could talk to some key players to be able to hopefully move this along and thankfully through some of those relationships found out that the best way for this to be a successful ask was to have that come through the Bishop,” explains Rios.

So last May, Diocese of Green Bay Bishop David Ricken sent a letter to Pope Francis.

“Praying and hoping and dreaming, I mean it starts with a dream and ask and like Austin said, don’t ask, don’t get, but yeah I was overwhelmed when the Bishop told me,” says LaViolette, who serves as the foundation’s president.

One of the most influential and recognizable people in the world, who receives countless requests, was on board to donate his watch, a Swatch, to the Brian LaViolette Scholarship Foundation.

Today, at Nicolet Bank, the watch was unveiled, along with a letter from the Pope’s secretary.

LaViolette is hoping the Pope’s watch will inspire other prominent donors to be part of the foundation’s Watch Project.

“I personally believe that the Holy Father is not only the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church, but I just think he’s a good human being and I think people want to be associated with good human beings and good stories,” says LaViolette.

“This has been a movement that’s been a lifetime and I’m just really thankful to have been a part of it and I can’t wait to see this campaign be successful so that so many more people can continue to be helped in Brian’s name,” says Rios.

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