After voters eliminated the budget for athletics, the Hull Boosters Club at Hull (Mass.) High School went into high gear. With only three months to save fall sports, they reached back to a long-forgotten event, raised the money they needed, and set the stage for a successful year.
By Nancy Sullivan
President, Hull (Mass.) Boosters Club, Inc.
In May 2009, when people voted down a proposal to override the property tax, the school was left with a budget of zero for all 22 sports teams at Hull High School. From $240,000 the year before, it dropped to nothing--except for what the booster club could help raise.
Since then, we've been working non-stop, with as many as three events in a month. After instituting pay-to-play and making cuts to the schedule, we still needed $25,000 just to save fall sports. We immediately thought about meadow muffins, which we hadn't tried in about 20 years. Back in 1988, when Proposition 2.5 eliminated funding for athletics, meadow muffins helped restore the program. So we decided to give it another try.
There are other names for meadow muffins, like bovine bingo or cow pie bingo, but the rules are the same. We created a 50 x 50 grid on the football field with 2,500 numbered squares, which we sold for $20 apiece. We let a cow loose, and her first splat was worth $3,000 to the person who'd bought that land deed. The second plop won $1,500 and the third $500. It was important to be really clear about winning, so we printed all the rules ahead of time and had three judges on the field to make any close calls.
We wanted a fun event that would draw people from the surrounding towns, so we added a country fair with a whipped cream pie eating contest, cookout, bake sale, games, sack races, tug-of-war, face-painting, craft vendors, and a giant yard sale. While people were waiting in the stands for the cow to make her deposit, we sold food at our snack shack. There was a good crowd, with about 200 people still buying deeds the morning of the event. Combined with the sales of food, vendor rentals, and the yard sale, we netted $22,000.
We spent the entire summer soliciting donations for the country fair, standing outside local businesses, and selling land deeds. Every deed that was sold needed to be accounted for, which took a lot of coordination, and every deed that wasn't sold needed to be returned.
All along, we had a lot of support from Jim Quatromoni, the athletic director, who worked as hard as we did, making cuts to the athletic budget, talking to businesses, lining up contributions, and getting athletes and coaches to help out. If players were going to the beach or summer hoops, we'd ask them to take some land deeds and try to sell them to everyone they saw.
Three weeks before the event, we still didn't have a cow. By then, we were willing to get a horse, llama, anything, and I was on the telephone calling dairy farms until we finally found a farmer who could do it.
The actual day of the event is a blur. We were so busy making sure the snack shack was stocked, selling deeds until the last possible second, and using Jim's laptop to generate the random numbers for our grid. When the cow did her business, volunteers called out the row and column, Jim and I looked up the winning number on the grid and the names on the spreadsheet, and announced the winners.
We also saved winter and spring sports, and haven't slowed down since. We raised $112,000 in a year, and every penny that went into the program was privately funded. In fact, we did such a good job that people didn't realize how hard we'd really worked behind the scenes, and last month, they rejected an override for the second year in a row, which brings us back to square one.
It wasn't simple to organize, and we all felt stretched like Gumby before we were done. But our kids deserve a chance to participate in athletics as part of the full high school experience. We all had it, and there's no reason in the world they shouldn't have the same opportunities.