Band, club, sports fundraisers disrupted by COVID-19

Members of the Hanceville Bulldog Band perform during the 2019 Cullman County Band Exhibition. (Cullman Tribune file photo)

CULLMAN, Ala. – During a normal summer you are likely to see smiling and waving kids with signs for car washes, bake sales and other types of fundraisers all over town. This year, due to COVID-19, even the simple effort to raise money for school activities has been disrupted, leaving booster clubs and school organizations looking for new ways to raise money. Some larger fundraising efforts are still up in the air due to the future’s continued uncertainty.

Marching bands across the area are already hard at work preparing halftime shows for what is certain to be a very different fall football season. The Cullman High School Bearcat Band’s annual Bearcat Band Card sale kicked off this week but with some obstacles. Band members are not allowed to set up booths at local businesses in hopes of selling the popular discount cards.

Bearcat Band Booster President Leeanna Smith said she has had to make some major adjustments to normal fundraising.

“The band card sale is primarily for the students to assist with expenses toward their performance and trip,” she said. “The band will delay the trip until spring. A percentage is kept by the band to assist with instruments and uniform upkeep. The band card sponsors were acquired in February to allow for printing so fortunately we had those locked in before the COVID shutdown.”

Another way many bands raise money is through running the concession stands at football games.

Smith explained, “Money from the concession stand funds our travel to away games, as well as security. This one will probably be the most affected by COVID due to possible restrictions to games and attendance.”

She added, “Cullman City Schools took a break from fundraising out of respect for business and the community as everything slowly reopened. We were allowed to fundraise for the visual ensemble last week, but because of shipping deadlines to prepare for the season, this only allowed us one week to pull off a fundraiser.”

Rather than hold three separate fundraisers for the dance line, color guard and majorettes, Smith opted to combine their efforts. “We did this out of respect for local businesses. We didn’t want to ask three times, and, as always, the community showed tremendous support and we had a very successful fundraiser.”

Students have all been instructed to wear masks whenever they approach people or businesses during fundraising and have been encouraged to utilize email and phone contact whenever possible.

Hanceville Band Booster President Bart Absher spoke of the decisions being made for Hanceville’s band program.

He said, “To cut back on the expense of uniform upkeep and cleaning, the kids will not perform in the marching uniforms this year,” he said. “They will each get a couple of nice shirts to wear for performances.”

The primary fundraiser for the Hanceville Bulldog Band is the annual Mud Creek Marching Festival. Last year, the festival attracted more than 25 bands from around the state, but this year, the fate of the festival is uncertain.

For other fall activities such as volleyball and cross country, how their fundraising will be affected is still unknown.

Fairview’s head volleyball coach Tracy Means said, “Fairview’s volleyball program is proceeding with open and volunteer volleyball skill practice and strength training for the 2020 summer along with offering satellite volleyball camps for Fairview’s students. Our students are just thrilled to be back in the gym. Fundraising provides many of our athletes the ability to play the sports they love without putting a huge financial burden on their families. We have kicked off our fundraisers for the season. We are not sure how this pandemic will affect their profits yet, as our deadlines are not due quite yet.”

She continued, “We have always expressed to our student athletes, ‘Do not let money hold you back! If you want to play, we will find you the money.’ In my 28 years of teaching, I have only had to help two students out financially by providing them with a business partner. Our wonderful community and business supporters are essential to our program. They have been very generous to our athletes. We understand that many of them have been greatly impacted by all of this as well. Even though the future is always uncertain, we will continue to work hard with and for our local businesses so that we can succeed.”

Cullman High School Cross Country Coach Trent Dean credits the program’s booster club for making sure the program would be in good shape for unforeseen events.

He said, “They have been very financially responsible in years past, which put us in a position to be able to step back from fundraising for the time being.”

Like most school programs, Dean is taking the “wait and see” approach to the fall season and budgeting.

He added, “We went ahead and did our annual in-program Run-a-Thon at the end of June that allows the flexibility and prudence to ask for a little from family, friends or close acquaintances who are in a good position to support, but no businesses. We have made it a point to not ask or reach out to any local businesses since we know many of them are experiencing a tough stretch here. We are also holding back from asking parents to pay a registration fee until we know more about the fall and access the necessary budget.”

Many school groups utilize spirit nights at local restaurants, which have had to be put on hold for the foreseeable future.

Smith, who also chairs the Cullman High School Theatre Boosters, said, “This area will be the most impacted by COVID-19 due to social distancing guidelines for restaurants. We look forward to collaborating with them again for this fundraising opportunity but only when it’s safe to do so. In the meantime, we are looking at other opportunities such as grants.”

Perhaps Fairview’s Coach Means best summarized the attitudes of the coaches and boosters we spoke to by saying, “We do what we do because we love kids and the sport of volleyball. So, we will be here to help out if needed. We are looking forward to a great season. Money of no money!”

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Christy Perry