November 11, 2023
By Robin Blakely
Nonprofit leaders at Pro Deo Youth Center are raising $4.9 million in the next 12 months to construct The Wesley Place, a new building named for Wesley Walker, the late son of Lee’s Summit residents Bob and Jane Rutherford.
Dr. Elaine Metcalf, Executive Director of Pro Deo Youth Center, said, “Wesley’s story is one of resilience and determination. The Rutherford’s decision to donate Wesley’s trust fund to Pro Deo jumpstarted our dream to build a state-of-the-art teen center. Their gift is now inspiring the community to help us build a brighter future for youth across the region.”
Wesley’s real-life story is captured in a touching memorial video on the Pro Deo website. From the very start, Wesley’s curiosity knew no bounds. Born in 1966, Wesley was an inquisitive and bright child, but his uncontainable energy and constant questioning set him apart. It soon became evident that Wesley faced unique challenges with attention difficulties. His early years in the classroom were characterized by struggles of conforming to traditional learning environments. As Wesley grew, so did his love for technology. In an era when personal computers were just emerging, Wesley became enthralled with technology. His fascination with computers, especially the Commodore 64, eventually paved the way for a career in the tech industry.
However, Wesley’s journey was far from smooth. As a teen, he experienced teasing and bullying from peers who failed to understand his interests. In 2018, at the age of 52, Wesley passed away from a sudden cardiac event while working at his beloved computer in his home in Adel, Iowa. His parents chose to donate Wesley’s trust fund of $685,000 to Pro Deo to help build The Wesley Place, a safe haven where teens can grow, learn, and realize their full potential, no matter the challenges they face.
Wesley’s mother, Jane Rutherford said, “The fact that this gift will help other kids realize that they have wonderful gifts—we all have wonderful gifts–and will help them discover those gifts…I know it would make him very happy if he was around to see that.”
Pro Deo officially closed on the purchase of land located at 902 SE Douglas for the 7000-square-foot Wesley Place on November 3, 2023. Board President Andy Campbell said, “Congrats to everyone on this big step towards the dream!”