Grafton High superfans

Grafton’s Robert (left) and Donald Kolanko have been devoted Black Hawks’ fans for more than 20 years, attending many sporting events each season. (Photo below) THERE’S NO SHORTAGE of orange and black Grafton High school attire in the closets of Robert (left) and Donald Kolanko. Their mother Donna visits the high school store for one-stop gift shopping for her sons’ birthdays and for Christmas. Photos by Sam Arendt


Ozaukee Press staff

They can be seen behind the home team’s bench at Grafton High School basketball games wearing Black Hawks’ apparel, near the press box during football season and next to the dugout along the third-base line for baseball.

They are Robert and Donald Kolanko, Grafton’s superfans, and they’re almost as regular a fixture at their alma mater’s sporting events as the spirited student section.

The brothers, who went through Grafton High’s special education program together, began attending games with their parents 28 years ago, when Robert was 14 and Donald was 12, and have witnessed some of the greatest Grafton teams in school history.

Two of their favorites were the 2007 and 2009 state-title winning girls’ basketball teams.

Coach Bob Maronde invited the pair to come to the basement of the Alliant Energy Center, where the team met before state tournament games.

“We would tap them (high five) as they came out of the locker room, and they won,” Robert said.

One of the Hawks’ star players who now teaches special education at Grafton High remembers two of her team’s biggest fans.

“I remember them coming to my freshman basketball games when I played for Bob back in 2004,” Lindsay Charles (nee Wilde) said.

“Robert and Donald represent the best parts of our community. They are kind, passionate and demonstrate unwavering support. They have brought generations of athletes, coaches and community members together.”

The Kolankos remember a girls’ basketball league in Cedarburg and Lindsay’s sister Leah inviting them to sit on the bench and help coach.

Today’s Black Hawks are well aware of their devoted fans as well.

“Every game they come up, give me a fist bump and tell me good luck. It doesn’t feel like a home game unless I can turn around and see them behind our bench,” girls’ coach Matt D’Amato said.

“It’s great for them to be there always bringing a smile.”

Robert and Donald sit in the same spot at each game for a reason — they want the inside information on what the players are hearing.

“We get to hear the coach,” Robert said.

“Especially to hear coach (Damon) James coach,” Donald said of Grafton’s boys’ coach. “The girls have an older man (assistant Greg Capper) who’s a good coach.”

Their favorite spot happens to be right next to the pep band.

“It does get loud,” Robert said.

The pair sometimes travels to road games. They’re familiar with how the baseball field in Whitefish Bay is situated, along with its foul ball hazard.

“If you’re at Bay, you’ve got to be careful where you park,” Robert said.

At home baseball games, longtime coach Brian Durst loves seeing the two superfans.

“One of my favorite pregame traditions is visiting with them near their usual seats just beyond our on deck circle. They greet me with a smile, exchange a handshake or fist bump and wish us well in the game,” he said.

“Robert and Donald are genuinely invested in our players and consistently provide positive energy for our team’s success. Their support is an inspiration and celebrated in our baseball program.”

Baseball is one of the pair’s favorite sports and the easiest to attend. The family lives near Ninth Avenue Field, where Robert and Donald also watch softball games.

Their mother Donna said her family has seen Durst and his family grow in the past 20 years. Durst’s son, Maddox, a 2022 grad, is one of Robert and Donald’s favorite players.

Former athletes Nate and C.J. Koehler got along well with the two superfans, and Donna said baseball player Addy Silverthorn “looked after the boys in high school,” even asking Durst if they could sit in the dugout with the team.

Robert and Donald followed the Grafton softball teams on deep playoff runs when stars Amanda and Ally Parsons played. Their father Scott was the athletic director at the time.

“He was so supportive of these guys,” Donna said.

Parsons’ son, Brad, a basketball and baseball player, set up a fan group to cheer on the Kolankos at their Special Olympics games.

Robert and Donald participated in bowling and golf in the Special Olympics, and now serve as basketball and softball coaches.

“They kind of aged into coaching,” their mother said with a laugh.

Athletic Director Kevin Moore has continued supporting the Kolanko brothers. He loves seeing them at events, and they even asked him where he was when he missed one Friday night basketball game to celebrate his wife’s birthday.

A quick jog of their memories opens an encyclopedia of Grafton sports history. Donna keeps photo album books filled with newspaper clippings of Grafton’s games.

The two don’t limit their attendance to high school games. Grafton’s American Legion baseball team, the Cedarburg Mercs and Saukville Saints of the Rock River League and even a neighbor’s church softball league in Cedarburg have fit into Robert and Donald’s schedules. Donna and their father Bob take them to and from games, or the pair take a taxi.

“It’s a good thing my husband and I love sports,” Donna said.

While in high school, the brothers expanded their horizons beyond athletics to the arts.

“We did construction for the play,” Robert said.

They also served as ushers and sang in the choir.

As proud alumni, Robert and Donald fit in attending games around their jobs and other activities.

Donald has worked in food service at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon and in the kitchen at Flannery’s at Fire Ridge Golf Club in the Town of Grafton the past 18 years. He sees some of the basketball players at lunch and likes watching the men’s basketball team led by coach Shawn Cassidy.

Robert worked at Family Tree Assisted Living in Grafton and the village’s SEEK Careers office before the pandemic ended those jobs. He now does custodial work at the Grafton Police Department and enjoys greeting employees’ dogs that are allowed to come to work.

Donna said Police Chief Jeff Caponera requests workers from Grafton’s Portal Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps find employment for people with special needs.

“His emphasis has been to learn about people with special needs and teach his officers how to handle them,” she said.

Donald and Robert participate in four activities per month through Portal, including Milwaukee Brewers, Bucks and Admirals games and Disney on Ice.

The two have traveled across the country through Able Trek Tours of Reedsburg. They’ve been to New York City and Brewers’ spring training in Chandler, Ariz., and this spring are going to the Disney parks in Florida.

They are relieved the toughest part of the pandemic is over since travel, sports and most every other activity was canceled or relegated to online status. They sought refuge near water.

“We started going to Port Washington and sitting by the lake once a week,” Donna said.

The Kolanko family moved from Glendale to Grafton in 1995 for better school programming for children with special needs, and both parties reaped mutual benefits.

The family got the support it sought and the Black Hawks got die-hard, lifelong fans who love their school.

Both graduated in 2001. Robert would have been the only one in his class, so he joined Donald’s class of multiple students.

“It really proved to be a great move out here,” Donna said.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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