Crazy Horse Memorial will start its first national fund drive this fall with the intent of heeding the late sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski's parting words to "go slowly so you do it right."
Ziolkowski, whose dream it was to honor American Indians by carving the 563-foot-high likeness of Sioux warrior Crazy Horse into a granite mountain in the southern Black Hills, set off the first blast in 1948. He died in 1982.
His widow, Ruth Ziolkowski, and their family have continued the work.
The sculpture now brings in millions of dollars every year, mainly through admission fees, and the family has held to Korczak's admonition to refuse government help and instead rely on private enterprise.
"As long as you work and never stop and make a little bit of progress every day, that's the important part," said Ziolkowski, foundation president and chief executive officer.
Visitor numbers have grown to more than 1 million annually, the face of Crazy Horse is complete and the complex of buildings at the carving's base now includes a museum, education center and restaurant.
The goal of the national fund drive is to work toward the mountain carving's completion and expand cultural and educational programs at the memorial.
"I think he would be on the good side of this," daughter Jadwiga Ziolkowski, one of the couple's seven children who work at the memorial, said of her father.
"If we do it through the fundraising and the campaign, then we can get more people to know about the Indian heritage, about the work that's being done here. I think he'd be proud."
Rollie Noem, chief operating officer, said Ruth Ziolkowski's thrift and confidence in the dream has kept it going through the good times and the lean.
"Ruth has such faith in the future. Even during the toughest times did she ever lose sight of that," he said. "Do what you have to do to make it work, be creative. She's done that all her life."
Fund drive begins Oct. 7
Crazy Horse plans to announce the fund drive Oct. 7, said Fred Tully, development director. The goal is to raise $16.5 million over the first three to five years and then another $10 million, he said.
"We've been working quietly, talking with corporate people and foundations and trying to get pledges and commitments before we make a public announcement," Tully said.
The first project is a $1.4 million dormitory that will house 40 American Indian students who will work at the memorial.
The rest of the first phase money will go toward equipment and workers for the mountain carving, the laser light show, scholarships for Indian students and the Indian museum.
The second phase will fund a hall that will recognize Indian heroes from the past and present, including an astronaut, soldiers, athletes and people from science and medicine.
Jim Hagen, a former South Dakota tourism director who's leading the nationwide fund drive, said people around the country and around the world are interested in the Crazy Horse Memorial and its mission.
"It makes it very fun and very easy when I'm approaching people about the project because so many people know about it. And there seems to be a deeper interest in a memorial that honors the Native American, and maybe in some ways righting the wrongs," he said.