One of those leading the effort is Jeff Kurtz, who has coached East County sports for 10 years and has a son who will be practicing with the Heritage freshman football team.
Kurtz has signed up a variety of local businesses to donate a portion of their proceeds to the effort. Participants include Harvest Park Bowl, Bagel Street Cafe, Uno Chicago Grill, Hampton Inn, Straw Hat Pizza, Les Schwab, Rubio’s, Trucks Training and some of the CornFest parking lots. In addition, the Liberty boosters are raffling a truck on Aug. 27.
Suddenly, from near obscurity, it seems like everyone is talking about saving freshman sports. Why does it matter so much?
“There are different levels of athletes,” said Kurtz. “Elite freshman athletes will have no problems because they will get pulled up into the JV. But there are guys and ladies who won’t be able to be active after school, and that will be a bad thing. A lot of parents feel this way. It has a domino effect on quite a few people, moving uphill, if you will. Coaches will decide to take the very best that they can. Fifty percent of the people who play in these sports are average or marginal players but still want to play.
“The coaches are real concerned about it. They like to have as many folks as they can play and get good at the sport and move up the ladder. If you don’t have that, you’re cutting out one-third of the kids, and who knows what they will do with their free time. The JV coach will say, ‘Why don’t you play for me?’ But half of them will be broken-hearted and turn around and go home and play video games.”
So Kurtz decided to get involved. “I have been pleasantly surprised,” he said. “Since I put out that e-mail that showed all of the (participating) merchants … a lot of folks have called up and said, ‘We want to help. What can we do?’ That list of (participating business) locals will grow.”
Restaurant fundraisers can be quite effective if the beneficiaries organize a good turnout. Kurtz’s club basketball team drew more than 100 people several months ago for a Tuesday night fundraiser at Shirasoni restaurant, which donated 20 percent of the proceeds, netting the team $1,000. “You can really make money for a program if you organize it right,” he said.
Organizers are hoping to reach a third of the $48,000 goal with the proceeds from $5 per car parking at certain CornFest parking lots. Another idea under consideration is asking for a $20-25 per sport donation when students sign up for freshman sports at walk-through in July.
“If everybody did that, we would be in great shape,” said Kurtz. “People pay $200-$300 for club sports. My son would probably play three sports. If we come up with a $60 check during walk-through, if everybody did that, it would be a good chunk of change.”
Stephanie Tran, owner of Bagel Street Café, is donating 10 percent of all transactions through July 31 as long as patrons write their name and favorite local high school on the back of their receipt. “I love sports,” she said. “And I love kids being active in sports. My son just finished his Deer Valley freshman baseball season. So I don’t want another kid to miss that opportunity. I think it’s very important.”
Uno Chicago Grill is donating 10 percent of all transactions on Tuesday nights in July, and there’s no need for customers to mention saving freshman sports. Trucks Training in Antioch, is donating 20 percent of the membership cost for anybody that signs up in July and mentions saving freshman sports.
Kurtz is pleased with the fundraising efforts so far. “I do know that all of these coaches are really trying to figure out a way to make it happen,” he said. “I’m blown away by their upbeat attitude on how to bring it together. That’s a big help.”
Other fundraisers include Hampton Inn, donating 10 percent of special room packages for those who mention freshman sports. Straw Hat Pizza is donating 20 percent of all proceeds on certain Tuesday evenings in July. Les Schwab is donating 10 percent of purchases (labor excluded) for those who mention freshman sports at the checkout. On July 14, Rubio’s will donate 20 percent of sales from 5 p.m. to closing for diners who bring in the flyer promoting the offer. To purchase tickets for the Liberty Boosters’ truck raffle, e-mail Tony George at firstname.lastname@example.org.