Schools

The Unsung Heroes of SoPas Schools

SPMS and SPHS Booster Clubs Deliver the Funds Behind the Fun
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SPHS Drama Club students perform in a production of “The Addams Family,” supported by SPHS Booster Club grants for the costumes and props. Photo by Nick Hoffa, SPHS Drama Club adviser

From dance to debate, music to athletics, there are more than 50 clubs, activities and sports teams between South Pasadena Middle School (SPMS) and South Pasadena High School (SPHS) that would not exist without the combined efforts of the four booster clubs across both schools that drum up support for student enrichment outside the classroom. 

At the high school, the SPHS Booster Club supports numerous clubs and sports teams while the SPHS Music Booster Club supports all the bands. The middle school has the SPMS Athletic Booster Club, which supports the sports teams, and the SPMS Music Booster Club, which funds the middle school bands.

Powered by an organized structure of students, volunteer family members and community members, the SPHS Booster Club got its start around 1985, when a group parents at SPHS rallied together in response to drastic budget cuts in school funding and wanted to come up with an idea to support the school and kids with afterschool programs and athletic programs, according to SPHS Booster Club President Ann VerKuilen.

“At the high school, we’re not just about athletics,” said VerKuilen. “It’s more broad. It’s drama, math, photography. Anything your child is involved with at the school, we hope to support.”

At SPHS, the Booster Club supports all athletic teams and the more than 50 clubs like PEP, SkillsUSA, math and stage crew, to name a few. It raises approximately $350,000 per year through SPHS Tiger Bingo ($210,000), the Tiger Run ($15,000), donations/fundraising/sponsorships ($110,000), SPHS Booster Club membership ($10,000) and other various activities, according to SPHS Booster Club Treasurer and incoming President Dianne Parker.

“There is a huge funding gap in athletics between what is funded between the district or the school and what it really costs to have a successful athletic program,” said Parker.

SPMS students compete in flag football. Nearly 90 percent of the funding for the school’s sport programs is raised through the SPMS Athletic Booster Club. Photo by Paige Reynolds

The primary fundraiser for the high school is Tiger Bingo, which meets every Saturday of the year. Bingo is organized into three slots. Three parents volunteer to work during the event, five students volunteer for setup and five students volunteer for cleanup. When a particular team or club wants to raise funds, they sign up for the setup and cleanup. The student group can earn up to $500 for working those slots. All profit that comes in from the event goes to the group and then into the booster fund, which provides equipment grants and travel grants for teams and clubs.

“We have regulars that come every Saturday and it’s really a community involvement,” said  VerKuilen. “The parents volunteer and it’s a way to spend time with other parents at bingo, working together to raise funds for the kids. It’s just a very tight-knit community and everybody has fun. We treat everybody with kindness and it’s just a really fun environment.”

Booster-funded grants have resulted in a new baseball and gym scoreboard, Tiger Mascot uniforms, timing system for the track meet and costumes for drama plays. The SPHS Boosters also partnered with the South Pasadena Educational Foundation (SPEF) for new stadium bleachers and a new track and field.

Family members and community members can show their support for the SPHS Boosters Club in a number of ways: By taking part in Tiger Bingo, registering with the annual Tiger Run or by becoming a member. Membership is a flat $50 for the year, and donations can be directed to any club or team of choice.

At the middle school, there would not be afterschool athletics without the support of parents and community members, according to SPMS Athletic Booster Club President Karie Reynolds. Nearly 90 percent of the funding for the sports is raised with their support. That funding and volunteer power translates into an ability to have rich and engaging opportunities for athletes and building school spirit.

“I just love seeing the kids being able to participate in sports afterschool to compete for their middle school and to get to cheer on the kids that are on the field,” said Reynolds. “It’s not just about the athletes, but it’s about building this community around sports and giving kids a place to go after school.”

For the athletics, around half the budget is funded by memberships through parents and family members. The rest of the funding comes from the Main Event Poker Tournament in partnership with the South Pasadena D.U.D.E.S., community business support and fundraisers. A family membership is $50 for the year.

The SPMS Athletic Booster Club supports an intramural sports program two days a week after school, where sixth-graders can be introduced to sports they’ll be able to try out for in seventh and eighth grades. Staples such as flag football, basketball and volleyball are options, as is Kubb, a Nordic game played with wooden blocks that values strategy over athleticism that was recently added.

“We just want it to be a way to help sixth-graders meet other kids and start getting connected to the school,” said Reynolds.

The 2019 SPHS softball team with a new pitching machine that was provided to the team from an equipment grant given by the SPHS Booster Club. Photo contributed by Dianne Parker

The SPMS Athletic Booster Club was started around 2003, according to Don Eggleston, a former president of the SPHS Booster Club, South Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education and Tiger Bingo. In the 1990s, when his son Chris was at the middle school and couldn’t play flag football due to the school not having a program for it, he saw a need for students to be supported in their athletic dreams.

“If you want to develop an athlete, you don’t wait and wait and wait until ninth grade,” said Eggleston.

As a school-board liaison for the middle school, Eggleston “had some pull,” so he gathered those he felt were going to be strong leaders and ended up rallying parents Bob Iger, Mike O’Neill and Laura Kiefer (who he calls the “founding mother of boosters at the middle school”) to join forces.

“Part of the testimony to the fact that it was a good idea is that it’s continuing today and it’s thriving today,” said Eggleston. “It’s excelling.”

Eggleston strongly credits the participation and efforts of parents as central to the success of the booster clubs across both schools.

“The parents have to be involved in it to keep things going and have to be willing to do stuff,” said Eggleston. “At South Pasadena, that’s one of our great resources: parents. They’re willing to do stuff, step up and work hard. …The parents are the key to having the program thrive.”

For more information on the SPHS Booster Club, visit sphsboosters.org. For the SPHS Music Boosters, visit sphsmusicboosters.com. For the SPMS Athletic Booster Club, visit sites.google.com/a/spusd.net/spms-athletics/booster-club. For the SPMS Music Boosters, visit tigercubband.com.

Skye Hannah, Senior Reporter

Skye Hannah is a senior reporter for the South Pasadena Review and the San Marino Tribune, covering education, government, sports, features and civic issues. Skye previously served as an award-winning senior staff photojournalist and staff writer for five years for the Rome News-Tribune in Rome, Georgia. You can contact Skye with news tips and feedback at shannah@gavilanmedia.com / Twitter @SkyeHannahCA

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