Twenty parents of Central High School student athletes gathered in the school’s chorus room on April 25 to learn more about Athletic Director Michael Rubino’s plans to start a booster club at the school.
The organization, dubbed the Eagle Club, would raise funds for athletic programs at the high school and at Memorial Junior High School. The money would fund everything from scholarships to equipment to plaques to rally towels to Homecoming parades. The Eagle Club’s goals would include recognizing athletes’ accomplishments, promoting school sports programs and providing financial support to the teams, according to Rubino.
“We’re trying to produce an environment that inspires student athletes, coaches and the community to create a positive and spirited atmosphere for all athletic programs,” Rubino told the parents.
Central High School has three sports seasons, with 13 boys’ and 15 girls’ sports.
Rubino also explained that a booster club builds team spirit at the school and enables coaches to focus more on students’ performances rather than team expenses. “It allows coaches to coach,” he said.
To raise money, the Eagle Club members would go to games and sell items, such as food and clothing. Rubino said he hoped that parents might help, too — even if their children were not in a particular game or event. “It’s not just one or two people doing all the work, it’s everyone,” Rubino said. “It’s a great community atmosphere that we’re trying to build here.”
To form the club, Rubino would need parents to serve on the board. The group would have to apply for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status so that any funds raised would be tax-free, and donors could receive tax deductions. The booster club would also have to buy liability insurance and submit a building request to sell goods at Central High School and Memorial Junior High School events, according to district policy.
Booster clubs elsewhere
School districts are under increasing pressure to maintain scholastic programs while toeing the budget line. As a result, some school districts have cut extracurricular activities, including sports. Parents cannot pick up the slack out of their own pockets, either, since Title IX, the 1972 civil rights law, dictates that every program a school offers must be open to all students equally. Schools cannot give preference to any one sport or program, and boys and girls’ sports must receive equal support.
In a 2007 decision, however, the New York State Education Department ruled that booster clubs are volunteer organizations and outside the authority of a school district’s administration — so it is permissible to fundraise for an individual sport in this circumstance. The North American Booster Club Association, however, has suggested that it is more cost-efficient and effective to form a single booster club for all sports. The Eagle Club would follow this guideline.
Both North and South high schools already have booster clubs, and both clubs raise money by selling food at games.
At North, the Spartan Club fundraises throughout the year. That money goes to 10 scholarships, more than 200 trophies for athletes, breakfast for spring athletes at Homecoming and end-of-the-year parties for each of the school’s 37 teams.
“I have superb parents,” Paul Kay, the president of the Spartan Club, said. “The parents and the volunteers know when there’s a game, they work.”
He has 40 parents and volunteers working at Homecoming games. In an average year, the club raises about $15,000 for the school’s athletic program.
At South, football is the biggest fundraising season, according to booster club President Tom Walsh. “We’ll get parents who’ll be in the stands, and then during halftime, when we’re slammed, they come out, they’ll help out, and then they’ll go back and watch the game,” Walsh said.
Patty Walsh, Tom’s wife, who serves as co-president, also said that South’s booster club provides money to any of the school’s other clubs that ask. For example, the booster club was able to help fund the dance club’s trip to Disney World, she said. The Walshes also suggested that anyone involved in the Eagle Club could work with local businesses and the Parent Teacher Student Associations to coordinate events.
Anyone interested in joining the Eagle Club can contact Rubino at (516) 561-4407 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.