PHILADELPHIA – New Prague athletic director Brad Skogerboe left work Thursday evening in time to get home and watch the Gophers hockey team play in the national semifinals.
On his way out of school, Skogerboe ran into Bob Ambroz, a night custodian at the high school. He’s also the father of Seth Ambroz, a junior winger for the Gophers.
Skogerboe asked Bob what he was doing at school.
“I’m working,” Bob replied.
The Ambroz family has endured some tough financial times since Bob lost his welder’s job in 2009 after 35 years. Bob found a job as a school custodian. His wife, Sue, works for a farmer in Lakeville. Money is tight.
“Just paycheck to paycheck,” Sue said.
The cost of traveling to Philadelphia to watch their son play in the Frozen Four on short notice wasn’t doable, not even driving. Bob and Sue were devastated.
“It was breaking our hearts, but Seth was good about it,” Sue said.
It bothered Skogerboe that two loving, hardworking parents had to miss out on such a memorable event in their son’s life. It bothered him that Bob refused to miss his 3-11:30 p.m. shift so that he could stay home and watch the game on TV.
Bob described that decision as “difficult,” but he didn’t want to put his employer in a tough spot.
“I’m loyal to my partners, and we have difficulty getting subs,” he said.
Skogerboe took matters into his own hands.
“Right then, I said, ‘If [the Gophers] win tonight, there’s no way he’s not going to be there,’ ” Skogerboe said. “We’ll get something figured out. They should be there. That’s the bottom line.”
Skogerboe called his superintendent, Tim Dittberner, with an idea almost immediately after Justin Holl’s stunning goal with less than a second remaining against North Dakota in the semifinals.
Skogerboe wanted to start a fundraising campaign to help send Bob and Sue to Philadelphia for Saturday’s national championship game. Skogerboe called a few co-workers who agreed to match his contribution.
The next day, New Prague Principal Lonnie Seifert sent an e-mail to faculty explaining the situation. Donations poured in — $10, $20, $100.
Everyone chipped in. Teachers, support staff, bus drivers, kitchen workers, administrators. In all, 57 employees of the high school made a contribution.
“Bob is such a valued employee of our school district,” Skogerboe said. “Such a nice man that everybody wanted to help out.”