Swim Team Fighting to Stay Afloat

By: Stacey Titchenal

It’s become quite repetitious hearing about the effects of budget cuts for the past four months; however, some programs have been hit harder than others, swim team being one of them.
Unlike basketball and football, that are able to take place on school grounds, swimming requires more than a court and a large patch of grass. No amount of combined kiddy pools will suffice when it comes to practicing.
Olinger Pool has served as a practice-ground for years; unfortunately, it has become too expensive for the district to upkeep. Thousands upon thousands of dollars are poured into the swim program to provide proper facilities and transportation. The district has come to the tough conclusion that they just can’t afford to pay for it anymore.
When the decision was made to cut funding for swim team district-wide, people went into rally mode. Coaches and district representatives got together to establish a strong plan that was far from tenuous; Salem-Keizer Swim Boosters became the solution.
The club was created as a way to organize fundraising efforts and to essentially take charge of the district swimming fund. A staggering $41,000 was required by October 1st to pay for the requested 90 percent of the rental fee discussed in the contract with the Kroc Center. Your standard lemonade stand just doesn’t cut it in a job like this, which is why the booster club has been doing multiple car washes, Krispy Kreme doughnut sales, and their most successful fundraiser yet, the Swim-A-Rama.
Two parents were selected from each school in order to run the club. Craig Evans, a parent from the West Salem swim team, was selected as president. When asked why he’s volunteering his time to help save swimming, his response was that of a dedicated parent, “My son swims for West Salem, I’ve been involved as a volunteer judge at the swim meets for a couple years, and I think swimming is a great activity…I decided it was appropriate to help out somehow.”
Incredibly, the booster club didn’t just meet their goal, but exceeded it by raising about $50,000. However, they don’t plan on stopping there. Their overall objective is close to $90,000, which will be used to pay for the multiple buses required for transportation. The district, at this point, is only able to pay for the coaches’ salaries, so fundraising will need to be done each year. Craig is confident that they’ll be able to do it, especially considering they’ll have all year, as opposed to the couple months they have had this year.
Rather than approaching this with a demure attitude, the athletes and coaches have speared this fish head-on. Naturally, most competitors would cringe at the thought of having to work with their rivals, but according to Nissa Johnson, a McNary swim team member, it’s been just the opposite. Anyone involved in this, from parents to athletes to coaches, has been in survival mode.
Kim Phillips, the head coach of the McNary swim team, sounded optimistic when questioned on her first impression of the budget cuts. She responded, “I don’t like seeing any athletics cut, but I knew that we we’re a strong enough group that if everybody got their heads together, that we could do it. My two parents, Debbie Johnson and Suzy Kottek, they were really strong in the board and they’ve been real pushy and real advocates for the program. I think a lot of the reasons we’re going to have the program is because of them, and also the McNary parents. The McNary parents have been really involved and I think our group is the group that started it all. I knew that they could do it….”
Much of the fundraising has been organized district-wide, though the schools have also been working separately. McNary alone has brought in a minimum of $15,000. During the Swim-A-Rama, the Celts raised over $8,000; Kim Phillips earned $1,000 and two other coaches did the same or more, which was a huge motivation for the athletes to push themselves. Seven Celtic swimmers raised $500 or more and eight collected more than $200 each. Overall, the district made about $25,000 through the Swim-A-Rama.
McNary has 20-60 people volunteering their time to assist in raising money for swimming, from attending meetings to showing up at car washes.On November 5th, McNary will be holding a pancake breakfast at Applebee’s as a last huzzah before the season gets into the swing of things. Fundraising will continue throughout the season, though the events will be much smaller, and they hope to have another Swim-A-Rama at the end of swim season. The booster club would like to raise as much money as they can before summer, knowing how busy families are during those warm months.
None of McNary’s success would have been achievable without the remarkable help of the parents, especially Suzy Kottek and Debbie Johnson. Suzy and Debbie began holding meetings for the McNary parents and even helped organizing some for a few other schools. “Our parent group has been a great inspiration in putting out a lot of effort to raise money and I know that many times Kim Phillips and I have been to the point of tears over how dedicated they all are to helping in this effort,” said Kottek.

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