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Community facing school fundraising fatigue?

By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Phil Green wanted his golf students to perform a random act of kindness for the Auburn community. So, the Newcastle-based PGA professional and owner of Home on the Range took a group of students to canvass the Staples shopping center, off of Highway 49 in Auburn, to collect trash. Green said he has been frustrated at times by the recent increase in fundraisers being put on by athletic teams. He was trying to teach his students the importance of serving the community for free. “I just wanted my kids to do something for the community without getting anything back,” Green said. The more strict enforcement of pay-to-play practices and shrinking school budgets has left many local teams struggling to make the bottom line. Green said even with those new challenges, coaches should look for ways outside of donations to fund their sports programs. Other Auburn-area residents said the fundraisers are necessary and the community continues to support its sports teams through giving. “There is so much that needs to fall on the coaches and not the school. There is money out there in grants that will pay for uniforms and your stipends. Quit relying on the schools to do it,” Green said. “You need to step up and start asking other sources for money, so the schools can put in a new computer lab and hire a new teacher.” Green has applied for and received several grants to fund his golf program in local schools. With that money he is able to teach lessons at no cost to schools and offer free classes for students at his driving range. Green said he realized how much grant money was available because his mother worked as a grant writer for Placer County. Placer High football mom Judy Sage has spearheaded the planning of a few fundraisers held this month to benefit the team and high school. At the beginning of the season, the team didn’t have enough money to cover bus transportation costs to away games. The Save Our Sports fundraiser, held at Courthouse Athletic on Oct. 8, raised $1,250 for Placer’s athletics programs. A golf tournament, held at Black Oak Golf Course in Auburn on Oct. 15, raised $4,213. She said the businesses she has approached have been more than willing to support Placer in some capacity, although she can sympathize with the businesses that may be suffering in the difficult economy. “I can sympathize with people being asked over and over,” Sage said. “But I don’t get the sense that they are worn out.” Sage said she also sympathizes with coaches and teachers who are dealing with the added pressure of having to raise enough money to support their programs, rather than being able to focus on working with students. Placer High girls basketball coach Tony Camillucci said in an interview earlier this month that he has approached some businesses that expressed irritation at being asked by multiple groups for donations. By the same token, Camillucci said the Auburn community as a whole always steps up to give. With fewer athletes making donations to the sports programs, Camillucci said the teams have had to make serious cutbacks. “You go from 90 percent to 30. That’s a big hit. It hurts,” Camillucci said. “It’s hard, but we still love coaching. Auburn Valley Golf Club just made a donation toward Placer’s fundraising efforts Thursday. Rob Weizer, PGA Director of Golf at Auburn Valley, said the golf club donates mostly to community-based projects. With Placer being the home golf team, Weizer said the club does what it can to support it. “We do have to be pretty particular with who we give donations to. We do make sure to keep it within our community,” Weizer said. “We still want to keep that community spirit alive.” Weizer said while he would like to be able to approve every donation request he gets, that isn’t possible in the current economic climate. Adele Wise owns Wildflower in Auburn. She said she has noticed schools are asking for donations more often than before. “Everybody asks. I do as much I can. If everyone gives something, it makes a difference,” Wise said. “I think the schools do ask more than before.” While Green recognizes school sports teams are lacking funding he said the constant fundraising can be perceived as teams looking for a handout. “If you want community support, you must first support your community,” Green said. Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com.