Elkhorn High Tennis Coach (and Elkhorn Hills UMC member) Jon Holtz organized a benefit event to support the Kounovsky family. The Douglas County Post Gazette covered this story in its Tuesday, September 18th edition. Much of this post comes from that story by Emily Heinzen.
Jon Holtz has been the Head Coach for the Elkhorn High Boys and Girl Tennis Teams for the past nine years. He is an active member of Elkhorn Hills United Methodist Church. He and his wife Ashley have two beautiful young daughters. Jon was recognized by the Nebraska Coaches Association as the 2015-2016 Tennis Coach of the Year. He teaches third grade at West Dodge Station Elementary School.
“It is important to me, as a coach, to teach my players that life is so much more than just sports.”
Brian Kounovsky is the Elkhorn High School Boys and Girls Junior Varsity Tennis Coach. He has been with the program over 16 years as an assistant. He also works as a physical education teacher at Elkhorn Valley View Middle School. Kounovsky, his wife Courtney, and three children: Brynn (1); Lauryn (11); and McKinley (4). The family lives in Gretna.
Brynn Kounovsky was born in September, 2017. Soon after birth she was diagnosed with a condition called Biliary Atresia. The condition occurs when bile ducts cannot function normally. An initial surgical procedure was not successful for Brynn, and, after a six-month wait, she was placed on a liver transplant list.
Brynn’s health deteriorated while waiting for the transplant, and the medical team at Nebraska Medicine suggested a living donation instead. On July 2nd, her mother donated part of her liver to Brynn. Today, Brynn’s health is much improved. “The liver is functioning well,” reported Kounovsky. “There will always be concerns with infection and complications due to her being immunocompromised.”
When news first broke that Coach Kounovsky’s newborn daughter was struggling with health issues shortly after her birth, Coach Holtz said his players and staff immediately offered to help in any way needed. Over the summer Holtz devised a plan for an event that would give young players helpful tennis advice while raising money at the same time.
A clinic took place at Skutt Catholic School on July 29th with members of the current and past Elkhorn Antlers tennis teams, as well as close friends at Skutt and Mount Michael, invited. The event was a success! “It was an amazing turnout,” reported Holtz. “Amazing area coaches helped feed drills and give instruction during the two-hour clinic.”
More than 130 people attended, raising more than $3,500 for the family. A friend of Holtz donated 50 T-shirts that said, “Donate. Be a Donor” with #babybrynn included in honor of the family. A silent auction raised money for the Kounovsky’s, as well with donated items from Racket Corner and Elkhorn area businesses.
For Holtz, organizing a benefit to raise money for a fellow coach and friend was a personal mission. “The real reason we wanted to help the family out is because Brian is such a great and caring guy,” shared Holtz. “He would drop everything and help you in a heartbeat. We knew what the family was going through, so we wanted to help in any way we can.”
Reaction from the Tennis Clinic
The Elkhorn community and tennis community is amazing! We had about 130 people playing tennis and supporting the Kounovsky family tonight! We were able to raise over our goal of $2500 by more than double!!!
Words can’t express the gratitude and love that was shown tonight!
Thank you Sheryl Vaughn for helping organize and running the tennis. Chase Petersen, Morgan Skrdla, Steve Bischof Mike Sanuik, and Josh Raymond for running fun and challenging drills! Racket Corner and Miracle Hills for donating items for prizes. Godfathers in Elkhorn for pizza. Elkhorn Antler Tennis Parents former and current for helping donate food, drinks, baked goods, and raffle prizes.
A special thank you goes to Ashley Holtz who saw a vision and made it come true.
We love you Brian Kounovsky, Courtney Reynolds Kounovsky, and family! We look forward to hearing and seeing each milestone Brynn gets to!
Thanks to Scott Avery for these amazing photos.