At Crazy Horse Memorial, family matriarch Ruth Ziolkowski has a gift of grand proportions to celebrate this Christmas season.
Her board of directors just accepted a $10 million grant from T. Denny Sanford, along with his challenge to match it dollar for dollar from other sources. It's the second challenge grant of that size in six years from the Sioux Falls philanthropist, who hopes it will help speed up key parts of the sculpture in his lifetime.
Ziolkowski embraces that hope, with caution based on her decades of work to continue the mammoth project begun by her sculptor husband Korczak in 1948.
"Denny's goal is to see the horse's head before he dies, and a lot of other people have that same goal," Ziolkowski said. "But you never know how long you're going to live. And we don't know how long it's going to take."
Ziolkowski said the grant will allow work to begin on the hand of Crazy Horse and work down through the horse's mane and head. The Crazy Horse Foundation matched the first Sanford Grant, for a total of $20 million, and is prepared to match this one, in time.
"Denny's gift is $10 million to be matched," Ziolkowski said. "We have seven years to do it. And it's a challenge to raise it and it's also a challenge to spend $20 million wisely."
But when you set out to carve a mountain, challenges are part of the deal.