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Picture This: Creating a Pictorial Fundraiser

By Danielle Catalano - writer for FundraisingforSports.com.

The Parkersburg (W.Va.) News and Sentinel celebrates the 100th anniversary of its local high school's football program by creating a historical pictorial of the program called the Centennial Celebration: 100 Years of Big Red Football. Proceeds from the sale of the book benefiting the school's athletic booster club.

The city of Parkersburg, W.Va., is located in the western part of the state where the Ohio River meets the Kahawha River. Its location and proximity to Pittsburgh, Pa., Columbus, Ohio, and Charleston, W.Va. have helped it remain a transportation and manufacturing hub of the Mid-Ohio Valley since the 1800s.

According to Mark Smith, President of Parkersburg High School Football and Facilities Improvements, Inc.—the school's only athletic booster club—the community is a close-knit one. Many residents are alumni of Parkersburg High School (PHS), valuing its traditions, which include supporting PHS's 100-year-old, nine-time state champion football program, the Parkersburg Big Reds.

PHS is a Class AAA school that began its official football program in1906. The Big Reds' overall record is 732-268-33 and won its most recent state football title in 2001. The team has been listed in the "Top 25 Programs" for Sports Illustrated, and several years ago, was ranked 13th in the nation by USA Today. College Football Hall-of-Famer Floyd "Ben" Schwartzwalder coached the team from 1936-40, and legendary Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Alfred Earle "Greasy" Neale (1941-50) played for the Big Reds from 1909-11.

These facts were not lost on News and Sentinel Sports Editor Jody Murphy—instead, they inspired him. During an editorial meeting in the fall 2005, he spoke about wanting to create a pictorial about the program's history to commemorate the Big Reds' centennial anniversary.

Earlier in the year, the editorial staff completed a historical pictorial for Wood County—the county where Parkersburg is located—as well as the county's photo book. For the football pictorial, Murphy felt that because of the community's support for the program was high and the fact that some of the content would come from the newspaper's archives, finding material wouldn't be difficult.

"We thought it was just such a neat thing," says Mike Christman, Publisher of the News and Sentinel. "Not too many schools have over 700 victories in high school football, have also been around for 100 years, and have won numerous state championships. We wanted to be a part of it and memorialize it in a book."

STEP 1: ASK ALUMNI FOR HELP
To create Centennial Celebration: 100 Years of Big Red Football, the newspaper first needed to gather as much material as possible. Christman talked to PHS Principal Ralph Board and Athletic Director Richard Lane about the book and how proceeds from the sales of the book would be donated to the booster club.

Next, Christman asked the booster club to contact as many alumni and former football players as possible, asking them to send old photographs and newspaper clippings about the Big Reds to the News and Sentinel. "I heard somewhere that someone has a book with several thousand alumni names in it," says Christman.

Christman heard correctly. According to Smith, the PHS athletic booster club has "just about 10,000 supporters."

This active local alumni base allowed word-of-mouth communication to work well about informing the community about the project. The topic was further discussed during the booster club's monthly executive and committee meetings. The club decided to put the word out in writing, using its Web site and sending home information about participating in the project to PHS football parents—many of whom played for the Big Reds.

The News and Sentinel also did its part by running daily print and Internet ads asking for submissions and wrote an article about the project. A month later, the response was tremendous.

STEP 2: SORT IT OUT
"We had a lot of people give us information on past coaches and history," says Christman. "We had a lot of people submit old articles and some who wrote articles, too. It was pretty well received.

"Editorial was the hogs behind the product," continues Christman. "We relied very heavily on our sports department, especially Jody. We gathered all that information, then Jody went through it, sorting everything out in chronological order. Our editorial department laid it out, and then one of our sister facilities took care of printing it for us."

Finally, by late February, 1,000 copies of the 96-page pictorial had returned from the printing plant. Similar to a high school yearbook, the pictorial's cover is Parkersburg red with gold lettering, with a capital "P" in the middle. Black-and-white and color photos fill the pages, dating from the 2005 season back to 1906, with a picture of the first "true" PHS football team. The text includes compilations of sports articles, biographies of Big Reds head coaches and outstanding players, and the scores of every game of each championship season.

STEP 3: PROMOTE TO THE FANS
While the editorial department worked on the pictorial's layout, News and Sentinel Marketing Director Anita Shumake began organizing the advertising and sales aspect and worked with the booster club on publicizing how the book benefits PHS's athletics program.

To promote the pictorial, Shumake created full-page flyers that the booster club displayed onto its Web site's online store (www.phsfootball.com) and placed in the school's souvenir store—the TP Trader--inside the football stadium. Nearly 600 books were pre-ordered, which took place during the second half of the 2005 football season, up to the winter holiday break.

Lately, Shumake has been busy working on summer promotions with the high school for Alumni Weekend and Reunion Weekend. Four hundred to 500 alumni are expected to participate in Reunion Weekend alone.

"We might put the book in a bigger book store," adds Christman, "but right now, we're working just with the high school and us, the paper."

STEP 4: BENEFIT EVERYONE
The book sells for $34.95, with $10 going toward the athletic booster club. All orders are paid directly to the News and Sentinel. "Once all the orders are done&3151;hopefully by the time Parkersburg's football season starts&151;we'll have a nice check to present to the Big Reds at their first football game," says Christman.

According to Smith, the booster club has three committees: Stadium, Improvements, and Football. The Stadium Committee is charge of major capital improvement projects to preserve the 85-year-old stadium. This committee, though, will not receive any of the money because it is responsible for raising its own funds. The Improvements Committee oversees what improvements each sport at PHS requests or needs, and, "the Football Committee does everything else," says Smith. "But it's not exclusive to football."

"Everything else" includes fundraising. Recent fundraising projects the committee has worked on are: a $25,000 upgrade for the boys' basketball state-of-the-art locker room, new indoor fully-equipped practice facilities for the baseball and softball teams, and funding for the football team's training and conditioning camps and clinics.

Although it has yet to be decided, Smith thinks "a good portion" of the donated money will be used by the Improvements Committee, which is currently overseeing the renovation of the stadium's pressbox.

Smith is thankful for the opportunity the News and Sentinel provided the Big Reds. "They're awesome," he says. "I don't know how they do it. They're pulled in so many directions. They cover so many schools, Williamstown, PHS South, St. Mary's, Warren; they're all over the place. They didn't have to this, but they care about the community."

The only regret Christman has about Centennial Celebration: 100 Years of Big Red Football is the limited amount of space. "We just wish that we could have made it bigger to include everybody's stuff, but there is a timeline cutoff." he says.

"The key thing was to talk about the history of the program—not be completely comprehensive, but to summarize the timeline," continues Christman. "We're hoping that we accomplished this. We hope we provided our readers with a piece of history, and if we can add to this by selling it and raising some money to donate to the school, then we're more than happy to do it."


For more information on the Centennial Celebration: 100 Years of Big Red Footbal, please contact Anita Shumake at the Parkersburg News and Sentinel: ashumake@newsandsentinel.com. To find out more information on Parkersburg High School Football and Facilities Improvements, Inc., please contact Mark Smith at: lxpressmds@aol.com.



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