The Mendota Booster Club recently donated $10,000 to be used for the new MHS stadium. Attending the presentation on Oct. 21 are, left to right, MHS principal, Denise Aughenbaugh; Booster Club treasurer, Rita Borelli; Booster Club president, Patti Blumhorst; and MHS superintendent, Jeff Prusator. (Reporter photo by Jennifer Sommer)
As a community, Mendotans have a passion for local sports and more than one Mendota High School alum has been heard to say, "I bleed purple and gold."
That type of devoted support has motivated many of Mendota's sports teams to excel through the years but behind the scenes, another kind of support - the money that helps make top notch athletics possible and the hard work of the volunteers who raise that money - is equally important.
Mendota has been fortunate. Its Booster Club has been a consistent and longstanding source of monetary support for athletics, most recently donating $10,000 to Mendota High School for the purchase of several items to be used at the new athletic stadium. The Booster Club's president, Patti Blumhorst, said the sizeable donation was something club members had been planning to do ever since the new high school opened in 2003.
"Knowing that eventually they were going to build the facility [stadium], it's something we've been saving for," Blumhorst said of the donation, which came from proceeds of various fundraisers done by the club.
The Booster Club's donation will be used to purchase several items that were not included in the initial planning for the stadium. Blumhorst said several items will be used for the track area, one of which will be a protective mat to cover the portion of the track crossed over by the soccer and football teams as they are going into the locker area, so their cleats do not damage the track.
The donation will also be used to purchase two new soccer goals for use on the stadium's artificial turf and Blumhorst said the high school hopes to buy a windbreak for the north end of the field.
Fundraising to enhance Mendota athletics is nothing new, although the methods of doing so have changed over time. Back in 1946 when the Mendota Athletic Booster Society (MABS) first started, according to local history book, Magnificent Whistle Stop, the organization "sold advertising and provided collection boxes at football games to originate a sizable bleacher fund to be used for new bleachers at MHS. The past year the fund was materially augmented through well managed sponsorship of two professional wrestling shows in the school gym."
Although popular large-scale fundraisers have switched from wrestling to draw downs, the modern day Boosters have also worked to streamline and simplify fundraising for the 18 sports teams at the high school. For the third year, the Booster Club is sponsoring the Trojan Treasure Chest, which is the only fundraiser the sports teams do for the whole year. Blumhorst said other area high schools such as Ottawa and LaSalle-Peru started fundraising this way a number of years ago and the idea is catching on at even more area schools.
With the Trojan Treasure Chest, each student participating in a sport is asked to sell 10 tickets for each sport they are in and each team is asked to have a prize donated with a value of at least $250. She said this eliminates the constant barrage of fundraising with individual coaches having to decide every year what to sell. Treasure Chest drawings are held several times throughout the year, giving ticket holders numerous chances to win.
Blumhorst said the sport receives 80 percent of each ticket sold and the additional 20 percent goes to the Booster Club. "We've done very well with it the last couple years," she noted. "I think the more we keep doing it, the better it will get."
Although this is the only fundraising done by students, the Booster Club has continued many of its long time fundraisers, such as concessions at home football games and 50/50 drawings at all volleyball, basketball and football games throughout the year. One of the club's most successful fundraisers is a drawdown held every year in March, which Blumhorst said consistently has a full house, selling all 250 tickets.
With the money made from their various fundraisers, the Booster Club purchases items that are not within the sports teams' budgets. Blumhorst gave examples such as a pitching machine they bought for the softball team, new mats for the cheerleaders, a freezer for the training room to store ice and video cameras for some of the teams. Once per season, the club also provides each team with Subway sandwiches when they are traveling long distances to games.
In addition, the club awards a number of scholarships each year, they hold a homecoming breakfast, have a homecoming banner contest with all materials provided for students, hold a "super fan" contest, raffle baked goods during Pack the Place, sponsor a Sweet Corn Festival candidate and this year helped pay for two charter busses for the football team to travel to away games.
Although the Booster Club's main focus is on sports, they have also helped to fund items that are not sports related. Blumhorst said they gave money toward a new camera for the yearbook, helped pay for an art show hosted by MHS, donated the "Entering Trojan Country" signs along the high school drive and other signs around town directing visitors to the high school and gave $500 to the Elks toward the after-prom party. "When we get a request, the members vote on it during the meeting, so whoever attends is able to help decide," Blumhorst explained.
Currently, the club has about 50 members, which pales in comparison to the 248 members that joined MABS in 1946. According to Magnificent Whistle Stop, by 1953 the membership had grown to 536. Although membership is not at the level Blumhorst would like to see, it has grown since she joined 10 years ago. "We usually have 15 to 20 people at meetings, which is really good," she said. "When I first started, it was always the same four people but still, I would like to see more parents be more active in the Booster Club."
Blumhorst pointed out that anyone can join the Booster Club and she said many of the club's members do not have children in school any more. Meetings are held the first Wednesday of every month at the high school and annual dues are $15 per year.
In addition to parents and community members, the Booster Club is supported by various local businesses. Blumhorst noted that for example, The Mendota Reporter donates proceeds from the Booster Book and Subway donates the sandwiches that the Booster Club sells at games.
In the early days of MABS, the organization supported all athletics in Mendota from Little League to swimming meets at Lake Mendota. Back then, they designed and constructed the scoreboard at the old MHS football field and also built the broadcasting booth and provided sound. And each year, they moved bleachers from the fairgrounds to the football field to provide extra seating capacity.
While moving bleaches is no longer a necessity, Booster Club members still provide a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes work and Mendota athletics would not be the same without them.