Across the United States, high school sports programs have faced budget cuts that have reduced or even eliminated sports opportunities for kids. Dramatic cuts in revenue, rising costs of insurance and upkeep of facilities, and other factors have caused school systems to cancel programs. In many cities, parents and school supporters have banded together to save these programs. Boosters clubs have sprung up around the country, helping to raise funds that allow students to participate in sports.

A great example of the power of boosters organizations is the White Pines Athletic Boosters in Ely, Nevada. The school district that includes the White Pine High School faced serious budget cuts as fewer students were enrolled in schools there. The district was facing over $1 million in cuts, and in order to save money for other programs, sports were in danger of being eliminated. Administrative programs and professional expenses had been slashed in previous years, so the school board had to take dramatic steps. $90,000 of the annual operating budget was cut from sports programs in the district. These budget cuts came from reduced student numbers and the expenses associated with retaining teachers, high insurance rates, and a loss of tax revenue in the area.

This is where the White Pines Athletic Boosters stepped in to help. In years past, the group helped raise funding for equipment purchases and travel expenses for the high school athletic program – this year, the Boosters were recruited by the principal of White Pine High School to come up with a plan to raise money to save all of the school’s sports programs. In partnership with parents, community leaders, school administrators, and volunteers, the group created a fundraising campaign called “We Ride for the Brand” which was able to bring in $120,000 in donations.

The Boosters looked at how other school districts conducted fundraising campaigns and developed a plan to raise the needed money in creative ways. Student athletes at the school also pitched in to help, raising $38,000 on their own by securing pledges from members of the community in exchange for running laps. This part of the campaign was called The Bobcat and Ladycat Commitment Challenge, and it was a huge success. Current and future athletes from the school’s sports teams also created the Iron Athlete Challenge, collecting money from pledges based on the number of sports tasks they could complete in 15 minutes. Athletes did pull ups, push ups, jump squats, and other tasks as part of the challenge.

The White Pine Athletic Boosters hosted a barbecue and dance at one of the city parks over the July 4th weekend and also held a softball tournament. Both of these events brought in much-needed funding and support. Then, the group focused on other efforts. Raising Boosters membership fees and seeking out financial help from school alumni and local businesses were the next step; in total, these efforts brought in an additional $83,000 in donations. Merchandise sales, athletic contests, corporate sponsorship programs, and promotional events all became features of the Boosters’ fundraising work. The corporate sponsorships in particular have made a huge difference, with several local businesses committing to support the sports programs with $5000 or more in contributions each.

The power of volunteers, coupled with creative fundraising efforts, have been instrumental in saving critical sports programs here in Ely, Nevada and in other U.S. cities. Sports are an important part of the high school experience, and raising money so that students can participate in their favorite sports is a smart move when faced with administrative budget cuts.

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