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Local colleges: JCC finds unique method for athletic fundraising

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In a sports landscape dominated by corporate sponsorship, Jefferson Community College has taken a refreshing step in the other direction.

JCC athletics has implemented an intimate fundraising program for all sports wherein each athlete requests a “sponsorship,” from a group of about 10 family members or friends.

The money is then used to provide players with equipment extras like warmups, sneakers or shooting shirts. The baseball team uses the funds to help offset its annual early-season trip to Maryland.

“It’s been pretty successful. Some teams embrace it a little more than others,” JCC director of athletics Jeff Wiley said.

“It’s a way to get little extra stuff for the athletes, above and beyond what we can afford to give them.”

The donations range from $25 up to $500 and in return, the sponsor will receive a varying amount of JCC athletics merchandise.

The smallest donators would receive an item like a water bottle or drawstring bag, while the $500 sponsors would get a JCC Under Armour jacket, water bottle, lawn chair, drawstring bag, T-shirt and plaque.

“Getting (corporate) sponsorships from everybody is kind of a pain and this allows us to work with family and friends,” Wiley said. “They usually come out and watch them and they’ll wear their Jefferson shirts or sit in the Jefferson chairs.”

The fundraiser is in its fourth year at JCC and is legal under NJCAA regulations, Article 8 Section 3 B, which says that booster type fundraising must be approved through the financial procedures of the college as approved by the college president.

Wiley said each team generally raises about $1,200 to $1,800, depending on team size and participation.

“It doesn’t get you rich, but depending on the participation of the players, you can raise enough to offset sneakers or warmups and it doesn’t have to come out of the kids’ pockets,” Wiley said.

The idea originally came from JCC athletic trainer and men’s lacrosse coach, Mark Streiff. He used it with the lacrosse program about four or five years ago, Wiley said, and raised close to $2,000.

Wiley then received a flier in the mail the following winter from one of his former women’s basketball players, Deena Lazore, who was playing for Division III SUNY Oswego.

Wiley decided at that point to put it in action for all teams that were willing to participate.

“She sent me one, and I said ‘This is a great idea. Let’s do this,’” Wiley said. “Then we kind of picked up the ball, and we did it ourselves in house.”

At the beginning of each sports season, the players will take photos and each coach will write a letter to inform potential sponsors of the team’s purpose for raising funds.

The players then provide a list of 10 to 15 family members and/or friends to Athletic Secretary Rachel Riordan, who will organize the information and design the fliers before sending them out.

In some cases, like the men’s basketball team with many out-of-the-area players, the fliers are mailed to active alumni.

Wiley said he has seen similar fundraisers at colleges around the state, specifically noting SUNY Cortland’s “Buy a shoe,” program. The school asks each alumnus to donate $35, roughly half the price of a pair of basketball sneakers.

“We were thinking about doing that and giving that a shot, but haven’t yet,” Wiley said. “We’re just trying to think of unique ideas.”

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