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High school boosters fear financial setbacks for years

Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 10:52 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - In late July, the Virginia High School League announced there would be no high school sports this Fall. It’s a decision, some fear, that will create long lasting financial setbacks.

High school booster clubs are vital to ensure the arts and sports have financial support throughout the year. The problem? The biggest chunk of their yearly budget usually comes from fall sports.

Parents, teachers and coaches at different high schools - Martinsville, Narrows and Hidden Valley - are all asking the same question. How will athletics and band boosters soften the financial blow, with no sports this fall?

“Completely unknown how we’re going to do that,” said Martinsville High School band director Brian Joyce.

Over the years Joyce and his students have found ways to raise money from Friday night sales to parking cars at the Martinsville Speedway. Although those events won’t happen this year, his optimism remains high.

“We’re trying to find new ideas on how we can still raise money,” said Joyce. He added, “Some of the things we can do as far as fundraising goes are a fruit sale or candle or something like that you can do online orders.”

About 110 miles northwest of Martinsville, Narrows High School athletic director and head football coach Kelly Lowe is trying to navigate the Green Wave through rough waters.

“We rely so much on our fall revenue to sustain us throughout the year,” said Lowe. “I think we’re really going to feel the effects of this two, three, four, five years down the road.”

With a population of only about 2,000 in Narrows, Lowe says it’s tough for the school to ask businesses, which are also struggling financially, for help.

“We need everybody to get back on their feet so they can eventually help us down the road,” said Lowe.

But the same expenses remain for the athletic department, which will not cut any programs. Similar to Martinsville, Narrows will trade out in-person sales for a fully online method.

Lowe said, ”We’ve never done that route before but we’ve never done a lot of things like we’re doing right now.”

For Nicole Pardon, a board member of Hidden Valley Athletics Boosters in Roanoke County and mother of two student athletes, even when these lights come back on, the booster’s budget might still be sitting in the dark. Fall sports generate 60 percent of the HVAB overall yearly fundraising.

“It becomes even tougher so our five-year plan will definitely be altered, and again, I feel like it’s the children who are the ones being hurt by this,” said Pardon.

Last season, boosters checked off a list of accomplishments ranging from new jerseys to stadium repairs. All of that thanks to nearly $20,000 in donations and fundraisers. But to keep up with their five-year plan, the boosters club needs the community to get in the game.

“We need our community to help us, because these kids can’t play, our fans can’t come out for Friday night football, and it is a serious deficit in the budget,” said Pardon. She added, “What we really need to lean on and make a plea for is that we need corporate sponsors more than ever.”

Back in Martinsville, Joyce sits in an empty classroom. He says while booster money helps make the sound, ultimately, It’s the kids who make the music.

“I miss the kids, that’s the biggest thing, I miss the kids. But they’ll be back one day,” said Joyce.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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