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Philosophical Fundraising

"Dig for a Cure Night" was the name of a breast cancer awareness fundraiser developed by the girls' varsity volleyball team from Corbett (Ore.) High School held this past October. The fundraiser generated $2,000 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the idea behind the Dig stemmed from a coaching philosophy Head Volleyball Coach Sue Busk has been emphasizing for 15 years: "We first, me second."

by Danielle Catalano

Adjusting PMAs
"A lot of the time, all I was hearing from the players was, 'Me, me, me,'" Busk says. "So, one of the goals this year was for the girls to do something outside themselves, to help them understand that it's not just about 'you' when you're on a team. Based on the philosophy, 'We first, me second'—the player putting others before herself—is how the team developed their fundraiser."

The philosphy was set in motion midsummer, when Busk and her coaching staff began preparing for the 2007 volleyball season. They created three goals for the team: make it to the state championship (CHS placed third in the 2006 state finals), make the journey fun, and have the student-athletes do something outside of themselves. Busk then held a parents' meeting at her house in early August to discuss the goals in more detail.

"We passed out this booklet that my assistant coach and I had been developing for 15 years," Busk says. "The booklet contains guidelines about our expectations about the parents' roles of supporting the team, the girls' roles, and the goals we want to accomplish to make the season a success—which doesn't mean winning or losing."

Busk says that the parents understood their roles, but to help the student-athletes understand the goals, it took a little "training".

"Over the course of 22 years as a head coach (11 at CHS), we found girls responded better to structure," Busk explains. "High school girls needed 'training' in what we call 'PMA—Positive Mental Attitude.' It's important to us that when I say, 'Give 110 percent,' everyone understands what that means.

"Or, 'Take off your lid,'" continues Busk. "A flea can jump eight feet high, but when you put a flea in a canister and put a lid on it, it will only jump six inches. When you take the lid off, it will never jump back up to eight feet. We don't want this to happen to the girls. The book is filled with stuff like that: mental pictures for high school girls to think about, to help them achieve more—not just when it comes to wins and losses, but learning how to work hard."

School Community Project Tie-in
With the student-athletes better understanding their roles and expectations, the team then focused on what they were going to do outside themselves. School had started at this point, and all 14 varsity players had to fulfill a community project requirement.

After a few brainstorming sessions, one of the student-athletes pitched an idea to bridge the team's goal with the school requirement, based on a presentation she attended during a volleyball conference in Reno, Nevada, this summer.

"Somebody back East talked about playing a 'Dig for the Cure' game," Busk explains. "For every dig made during the game, money was donated to a local cancer chapter. That seemed a little bit outside what the kids wanted, because it was too specific. But they got into, 'Hey let's design uniforms. Let's decorate everything pink.' They wanted to raise money their way, but not necessarily by digging, so they chose to host a game-fundraiser, with all money raised to go to charity."

The players agreed that proceeds from the fundraiser would be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation and that the fundraiser would take place in October, since it is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The fundraiser would include an auction after the game (entailing gift baskets and baked goods) and 50-50 raffle drawings. The gym would be decorated completely in pink, and if possible, all student-athletes, coaching staff members, and game officials would wear pink tops. The slogan, "Dig-for-a-Cure" would be on all uniform tops and printed materials. Posters and fliers would be created to promote the event.

The varsity players next sought and received approval from their school advisers to develop the fundraiser, with the volleyball coaching staff taking on a "consulting role". The student-athletes were given two weeks to organize their thoughts on how to go about coordinating the elements of the fundraiser, reporting to Busk. In the meantime, Busk contacted Corbett's league rival, De LaSalle North Catholic High School, to see if it would be interested in participating in the fundraiser.

"I picked De LaSalle because I've known the head coach for a long time," Busk says. "Our teams have always had incredibly intense games. It's sort of a big deal for us because we come from the country and De LaSalle's in downtown Portland. Also, the head coach is a good guy and I knew he would be game to wear pink and bring a big crowd. Schedule-wise, it worked out great because our game against De LaSalle was in early October, so this was motivation for the team not to procrastinate on getting the tasks done."

Booster Club Approval
When it came to organizing, Busk assigned each player three responsibilities, ranging from publicity and decorating to business donations to designing uniforms. The progress of each responsibility was to be reported back to Busk each weekend throughout September.

The coaching staff had its share of responsibilities, including getting permission from CHS's athletic director to host the fundraiser and decorate the gym, and contacting the Oregon School Activities Association for permission to alter the game uniforms and having gate receipts donated to a charity. Busk also contacted the game officials to see if they'd be interested in wearing the pink tops.

Corbett's athletic director, the OSAA, and game officials agreed to all measures within a week's timeframe. Busk then contacted Corbett's all-school booster club because the group handles the school's gate receipts. The booster club's agreement, though, took longer because the booster club needed time to decide how much of the receipts it was going to donate.

"At first, the club wanted to donate one out of every eight admissions, because one out of eight women are diagnosed with cancer," Busk says. "The players kind of scoffed at that, and the booster club finally agreed to donate all the concessions and gate money."

Goody Bags and Goody Cakes
Busk was creative when it came to the players reporting the status of the fundraising tasks. Each weekend in September, the volleyball team played in tournaments, with at least three matches played per tournament. Between matches, the group had at least a one-hour break, and Busk had the team use that time to discuss coordinating details.

"The players worked on their tasks in small groups," says Busk, "But they needed time as a whole group to discuss problems and ask questions, and we as a coaching staff didn't want this to take up too much outside time. The setup of the tournaments provided enough time and frequency for the team to hash out everything."

During the days leading up to the tournaments, the student-athletes drafted a press release and sent it to local media outlets and De LaSalle High School and kept in communication with all who received the letter. They contacted businesses and community members for gift basket donations and worked with a retired silk-screen designer (whose granddaughter plays j.v. volleyball) to create the uniforms.

As the date of the fundraiser grew closer, the team filled the gift baskets with the donated items, such as knit pink scarves and pink candy, and created theme baskets. "We had food baskets, one of which had a pink cookbook and Campbell's soups with pink labels," says Busk. "There's so much out there with 'pink' that we didn't realize until this fundraiser."

A Corbett player also participated in the Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure in late September. She was able to get the foundation to donate the leftover goody bags, which were filled with pink shoelaces, ribbons, pins, and literature on breast cancer awareness. The team added the items to the gift baskets and re-laced their game footwear with the shoelaces. The student-athletes also set up brochure displays throughout the gym from the leftover literature.

In addition to the gift baskets, 12 homemade cakes were auctioned, baked by the players and community members. "Some cake decorators also created cakes, and players decorated their own to show off their talents," says Busk. "The cakes ended up bringing in $500 from the auction."

Parents Kicked Out
Busk says the night of the fundraiser, the crowd from both schools was filled with wild energy, as De LaSalle heavily promoted the event as well. "De LaSalle's crowd was great," she says. "They were loud and crazy and wore pink, too. They absolutely participated, buying raffle tickets and baskets."

Corbett won the game in three matches, and the volleyball team raised $2,000 that evening.

The fundraiser had its share of challenges. "The parents wanted to take over," Busk says. "With their life experiences, they knew what to do to be successful, but it was the girls' fundraiser, and once they owned it, they wanted to take pride in it.

"When the parents tried to take over," continues Busk, "the girls just conceded. It was difficult for the parents to understand that the players were going to take care of it. So, at one point I had to interject myself and say, 'Okay parents, you're out of this.' This happened at the first tournament. I had to remind the parents of the importance of supporting the players.

Busk, too, had to remind herself that notion. "My challenge was the fact that the fundraiser was a huge event, but I really wanted to beat De LaSalle!" Busk says. "We were all excited about the fundraiser, but we also needed to compete against our league rival. I really had to put my coaching hat on—but I also had to remember the goal of 'doing something outside ourselves.' This event was for them, not me."

Busk praises her student-athletes for their success and taking the 'We first, me second' philosophy to heart. "One of the challenges the players dealt with was making phone calls," she says. "Even though they really didn't want to make the phone calls, they had to do it to get the task done, regardless of what the answer would be.

"Those high school girls became powerful," she says. "When left alone, they were incredibly creative. They just had to get over that fear."

For more information about Corbett (Ore.) High School's volleyball program, you make contact Sue Busk at: is brought to you by a recognized and established name in the school athletics arena, MomentumMedia—publisher of Athletic Management, Coaching Management and Training & Conditioning magazines.