Rudy Foundation works to help students achieve goals

Cheryl Ruettiger lives in Henderson, but she might as well be a Summerlin resident. She spends almost all of her time there. Her office is in Summerlin, and her children attend Summerlin schools. Her efforts to further the arts also revolve around Summerlin.

“Summerlin is our life,” she said. “I mean, all our kids are in school there, and we do all our events there at the Summerlin Library. And my partner is out there, so everything is out there.”

Her husband, Rudy Ruettiger, was the subject of the 1993 movie “Rudy.” The film showed how, despite having undiagnosed dyslexia and being undersized, he realized his dream of playing football at the University of Notre Dame. His shining moment came when he tackled the opposing team’s quarterback, a play that clinched the national title for his school.

A woman with a wealth of energy, Ruettiger is the co-founder and executive director of the Rudy Foundation. The foundation’s aim is to further that “can-do” spirit in students to help them achieve their goals. She has developed a number of showcases to benefit students and sports teams, theater and dance groups.

The foundation offers scholarships through those showcases. Master of the House is one showcase, with the focus of performing arts. It has brought high school theater groups together to perform and compete for scholarship money.

“It attracts the audience from the community because they’re coming from so many schools,” she said. “They see a sampling of everything that’s going on in the schools. You can catch a bunch of theater in one night. So, there’s a lot of enthusiasm. The top team gets the scholarship money, but the other teams get the chance to perform.”

The first Master of the House showcase was held in 2013 at Faith Lutheran Middle School and High School, 2015 S. Hualapai Way. With it came new lessons.

“I learned it’s important to build a like-minded team,” Ruettiger said. “I learned that it takes a lot of effort. Everything I do for the Rudy Foundation is volunteer work for me. It’s a blessing and a curse because I’m the kind of person that, if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it 100 percent.”

Master of the House was skipped for 2014 because the foundation wanted to add dance teams. So, the next one is being planned for May 2015.

Another aspect of the foundation is Musical Fusion fundraisers, which offer different genres — Broadway tunes to rock — to tell a story and raise money for the performing arts.

Cheryl and Rudy met as teens. She became his assistant after the movie saw Rudy become a motivational speaker in high demand. They married in 1997 and had two children — Jessica, 15, a sophomore at Faith Lutheran High School who is involved with the theater arts department, and Danny, 11, who will enter Faith Lutheran next year and plans to play lacrosse.

Erik Ball, head of theatrical arts at Faith Lutheran, called Cheryl Ruettiger a selfless and kind person prone to encouraging others.

“It’s more than that,” he said. “Cheryl understands and is passionate about connecting as human beings. She embraces the opportunity to create something new and loves to support those who have a desire and drive to do that through performance together. She’s not necessarily an actress, singer or dancer … but I’ve never seen a more dedicated artist than Cheryl.”

In five years, she said she wants to have a theater in the Summerlin area.

“It’s not going to be your traditional theater, not The Smith Center with 2,000 seats. We don’t want to replace that,” she said. “We’re talking about 500 seats. We want to offer the community so many things, especially being tied to the Rudy messages — inspirational movie nights, guest motivational speakers, celebrities from the movie scene where we can bring people in. I just want people to be inspired. Life is too short (not to). Something that can ignite a flame inside them. I really believe everyone has something to contribute. I want to give that message to kids. It’s a tough world for them, and they’re growing up in a fast-paced world with not a lot of one-on-one time with people.”

A major fundraising campaign has been designed and was recently released. To help ensure that it comes to fruition, the foundation’s board includes builders.

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Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at or 702-387-2949.