The Thomson High School Athletic Booster Club is in the middle of their fund raising kickoff for the 2006-07 school year. As usual the club is depending upon membership in the Big Dog Club as its primary vehicle to raise money. The lure to attracting members to the Big Dog Club is priority parking at home football games. Reserved parking on the practice field across Springfield Street from The Brickyard is made available to those choosing to support the booster club at the Big Dog level.
Like most high schools, and colleges for that matter, Thomson High cannot depend upon gate receipts alone for the money to finance an athletic program. The only aspects of a program that local boards of education can provide for are coaching salaries and a few other items such as busses and fuel for travel. Tax dollars cannot be spent on uniforms, equipment, and game expenses. Even the provision for facilities has to be carefully managed by the school administration so as not to violate various state laws concerning where your tax money goes.
Football is the cash cow that schools use not only to field a team on the gridiron, but other teams such as softball, basketball, baseball, track, golf, tennis, soccer and so on. The nature of football in most counties creates the market demand that allows school administrators and booster clubs to use that popular sport to provide supplemental income to all sports programs.
Regardless of the mechanism used to raise money, this year's Booster Club President Rick McCorkle reminds us that the funds always trickle down to the students involved with the various teams.
"The whole idea is to remember that the boosters are about helping the kids," said McCorkle. "Many families struggle to provide the financial support that their children need to participate, so that's why we need to do all we can to support the athletic program," he added.
McCorkle and longtime boosters Ralph Starling and Stewart Young sat down with me and provided a laundry list of specific things that the boosters have paid for over the years. This list is inclusive of all the THS athletic teams and even includes some personal type assistance to kids after they have left Thomson High School.
"Pre-game meals are one thing that we sponsor that would drain an athletic budget," Starling said. "We've even chipped in and done the cooking on occasion."
Starling also mentioned college scholarships that are awarded each spring and the fact that the club has even "loaned" money to former student-athletes to help out with their college expenses. "We've even chipped in on Christmas gifts and electricity bills," he said.
Big-ticket items purchased over time by the boosters have been a P.A. system, lawn mowers, pitching machines for softball and baseball, batting cages and of course uniforms for all sports including cheerleading. There also have been items like field paint, knee braces, golf bags and balls, and even some transportation costs.
Among many others in the community that have led the way in booster fund raising are names like Ray Guy, Jeff Cowart, Tommy Brown, Henry Thomas, Don McNeil, the Poston family, the Knox family, Jerry Randolph, J.B. Williams as well as many businesses and banks. The business signs that you see in The Brickyard are specific reminders of those that have generously supported the booster club.
McCorkle, Starling and Young want to remind those wishing to join the Big Dog Club that the $100 fee is due before the first home football game on Sept. 15. This is the group's major fundraiser for the fall and the annual spring golf tournament is the other. McCorkle can be reached at 706-595-6098 and Starling and Young at 706-597-8500.