Holiday season fundraisers keep local athletes in the game | ParkRecord.com

Holiday season fundraisers keep local athletes in the game

The days are short, the air is brisk and occasionally, it snows. It's winter, the season for giving. While traditionally gifts are exchanged between friends and family, it's also an important time for several local sports teams.

Last Monday night, a box truck pulled up to Ecker Hill Middle School, and opened its back doors. Student athletes and parents then unloaded its contents – boxes of oranges (navel and juice) and grapefruits to waiting families, who had purchased them from the Park City Water Polo Club.

All told, the club sold $16,000 of fruit – weighing more than 1,200 pounds – in a fundraiser to prepare for next season.

The club is by no means alone in its endeavor to raise money. This season, baseball and lacrosse programs are also raising money. PCHS athletic director Jamie Sheetz said the fundraising season never truly stops, but several efforts coincide with the holiday season.

“On our block alone we have a lot of soccer players, we have lacrosse and we have baseball,” Stockwell said. “So you get a knock on the door a couple times a year and you reach for your wallet, and then you say ‘Ok, my kid will be knocking on your door in a while too.’”

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"I think that sometimes, the holiday brings its own activities with it," he said. "You can't do Christmas tree recycling in July. … Baseball has a Christmas wreath fundraiser; well, that's not going to happen in March."

He also said that, with everyone getting into the spirit of giving, it makes sense to have fundraisers now.

Katie Pederson, a parent who organizes the team's Christmas tree recycling program, is hoping the community can still spare some cash for the holidays.

"I have a senior and a sophomore boy and they have helped since they were in elementary school," she said. "The kids have to go out in trucks and trailers and go out and pick up trees. I think the community really likes it."

Sometimes the athletes have to wrestle with trees that have been snowed in, or have to remind someone that there's no way to effectively compost a tree that's still decorated, but by and large, she said it's a fun and productive project.

"I think it's good for the community, and you don't even have to live here," she said. "People who have second homes, they can sign up and leave their tree out and know it's going to be picked up."

She estimated the team will pick up around 500 trees and bring them to local composting sites, where the trees are mulched and then distributed to green spaces and parks.

Fundraisers like these are important financial events for the teams, particularly for club sports like lacrosse and water polo because they don't get funding through the schools.

For the water polo team, the money raised will help fill a big gap on the roster.

"We lost our coach. He moved to Texas so we are looking for a new coach," said Mike Stockwell, a parent on the team. "And it's impossible to find someone that has the desire to coach … is approved by the sport's governing body and who wants to do it basically for free and can do it from 3 to 5 p.m."

Stockwell said a large chunk of the money raised will go to a coaching stipend.

"When (the teams are) younger it's easier," he said. "Because a dad can do it … but when you get into the high-school level there's a lot more technique and technical training."

Even when teams don't need new coaches, the fundraisers are vital.

"It pays for coaches' salaries, field time, travel — all of it," Pederson said. "Everything that would encompass this sport, that's what it would help with."

For lacrosse, the cost of competing can be exorbitant. According to a 2016 survey by the University of Utah (which was published by Time magazine to showcase the rising cost of youth sports), the average seasonal cost for a Utah lacrosse player is $7,956, and can cost up to $17,500.

Comparatively, baseball was a bargain at an average of $1,143 per season.

That's one reason why Stockwell said families work hard to make the fundraisers a success.

"We sold 23 (crates of fruit) and we weren't even close on the list for most sold," he said.

Fortunately, the community is very tight knit. Sheetz, Pederson and Stockwell agreed that parents are usually willing to help each other out.

"On our block alone we have a lot of soccer players, we have lacrosse and we have baseball," Stockwell said. "So you get a knock on the door a couple times a year and you reach for your wallet, and then you say 'Ok, my kid will be knocking on your door in a while too.'"

Pederson said she bought four wreaths from the baseball team, and Stockwell bought opportunity tickets from the girls' lacrosse team.

"We all donate to every team, every season, every year," he said. "When it's your kid's team's turn to ask, our friends and neighbors really step up and reciprocate."

Because parents circulate money amongst the sports community, it's hard to say how much new money the fundraisers bring into the clubs, but each year teams find funding. With the rising cost of youth sports, that in itself is a reason to celebrate.