Six years ago, the Middletown High School Sports Club recognized the school's primary athletic field was in need of a major facelift. The multipurpose natural grass surface was not holding up well under regular wear and tear.
So the all-volunteer booster club, primarily comprised of family members of the school's student-athletes and community members, raised private funds and solicited pledges to renovate the stadium complete with a synthetic turf field and video scoreboard. The turf, which cost approximately $1.2 million and has been financed completely by private donations, was installed prior to the 2008 fall season and was the first of its kind at a Frederick County Public School.
Club president Keith Powell said nearly half of the cost has been accounted for, and the nonprofit organization is in the process of developing Knight's Way, which will allow community members to purchase commemorative bricks that will be part of the renovated stadium entrance and will help pay off the debt.
“The stadium's been our biggest undertaking,” said Powell, who was also the chairman of Knights' Quest, the stadium renovation committee. “It's a year-round operation for us. We are essentially the umbrella to provide funding and support for all of the school's athletic teams. Anything we can do to help offset the athletic department's costs, we do.”
The club was established in 1973 and has since provided the means for various facility improvements and team upkeep. It also organizes all the school's youth sports camps, offers a scholarship, buys uniforms and runs the concession stand at all events.
“The only way we are successful is with all the community support,” Powell said. “And I think that is true at every school. Parents, local business and corporations that are based in and have roots in Middletown help provide us with everything we need.”
Middletown's organization isn't the only successful one in Frederick County.
“It definitely is a 12-month deal,” said Gov. Thomas Johnson booster club president Dan Plombon, who added the club is looking into the feasibility of installing a new field in its stadium. He also said it has donated more than $20,000 to the school in the past year. “We meet every month to discuss ideas and plan for the upcoming season. It can be something very small like buying stopwatches, or a sizable expense like buying a rebounding machine for the basketball team or sponsoring a summer conditioning program. Everything we make goes right back into the athletic department.”
Periodically, representatives from each booster club meet with administrators from the county's athletic office in order to voice their concerns and comments. The FCPS officially sanctions the meetings and the group is known as the Athletic Advisory Committee.
“All the booster clubs do a great job with their homework and are well informed,” said Urbana Athletic Director Kevin Kendro, who is filling in as the county's supervisor of athletics during the summer for Perry Baker. “The various booster groups get together to work and share ideas for the benefit of the kids. They ask us about our rules and the reasons we do some things.”
At Walkersville, the booster club has started a $3.4 million capital fundraising campaign to renovate its stadium. Planned improvements, include synthetic turf, modernized bleachers, new lights and a new field house with on-field locker rooms. In addition to major expenses, the club typically provides $15,000 to the school's athletic department on an annual basis for a variety of expenses, according to president Phil Shortt. They also donated $78,000 for improvements to the press box, sound system and scoreboard last year, Shortt said.
“We do a lot of stuff behind the scenes, but what we are most known for is probably selling spirit wear and running the concession stand,” said Shortt, who added that the booster club also helped start a student athletic training program at the high school. “We want to provide the best environment possible for extracurricular activities.”
Walkersville may have the most unique fundraising event in the county: Cow Pie Bingo. Following a game, the field was divided into various areas, a cow was brought to the field, and fans placed bets on where the cow would relieve itself.
Oakdale, which opened in 2010, just completed its first season with a full-fledged stable of varsity teams. The school, which includes students who previously were zoned for Urbana, Linganore and Thomas Johnson, fielded junior varsity teams in some sports during the 2010-11 school year. Its booster organization has secured more than 100 sponsorships for games and fundraising events such as a 5-kilometer run and golf tournament, said club president Joe Kober.
“We are growing and are only going to keep getting bigger as the school gets to full capacity,” said Kober, who added the club raised $80,000 during the past school year. He also said they are in the process of building a new concession stand. “The fact we have parents that have experience with booster clubs at Urbana, T.J. and Linganore has been extremely beneficial.”
At Linganore, which was completely rebuilt and reopened in 2010, the booster club also does not need to worry about facility upgrades.
“We don't have to do anything out of the ordinary,” said Lancers booster club president Danner Hawkins, who declined to give a specific annual fundraising amount, but said it was in the “several thousands.” “We are fortunate in that sense all we have to worry about is the regular stuff like buying uniforms. We let our teams do a lot of their own fundraising.”
At rival Urbana, club president Joe Gatewood and the rest of the boosters have developed several fundraising ideas over the years, including an annual golf tournament, benefit race and an online fundraiser that is designed like mass coupon websites Groupon and Living Social.
All the school's student-athletes also write letters on an annual basis expressing their team needs. Recently, the club replaced equipment for its cross country and track and field teams, bought new mats for the cheerleading squad, provided new goals for the field hockey team and bought a new scoreboard for the baseball field.
“We raise a little more than $30,000 annually for our general fund,” Gatewood said.
“Long term, we've replaced our press box and paid it off. Now we are working on finding a way to get a new stadium field. There's a big push for that.”