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Racing for Funds

The North Royalton Athletic Boosters of North Royalton High School in Ohio have prided themselves on conducting unique fundraising events that go beyond the nickel and dime projects. One of the most successful is the annual Night at the Races, which last year netted nearly $9,000.

By Brian Lebo
President, North Royalton Athletic Boosters, North Royalton High School, Ohio

Traditionally, every sport has their cookie dough sales and car washes and those sorts of things. The problem with the frequent nickel and dime fundraisers is just that - people start to feel nickel and dimed. "I just bought cookies last week, I just bought a t-shirt this week."

Our philosophy is to take a different approach. We focus on big-ticket fundraisers where we get an all-hands-on-deck effort from our constituency. We hold an annual Texas Hold'em Poker night that usually grosses over $50,000 and nets us around $35,000 to $40,000. We have a local car dealership that has donated a car for the last three years, which has netted us over $50,000 on average during that time. And we also hold a wine tasting event, which nets us in the $8,000-$9,000 range.

One of our more successful and fun events is our annual Night at the Races, which is a 10-race delayed simulcast of thoroughbred horse racing. We held our 12th rendition last November. The cost was $25 per ticket and includes dinner, drinks, gift baskets, and door prizes. It was the best one we've had over the past three or four years that I can remember. We netted between $8,000-$9,000, and we grossed about $12,000.

It's usually pretty well attended because it's a lot of fun. Last year we had close to 150 people.

We solicit an outside company that specializes in this type of event. They bring the videos, run the betting tables, and provide the nucleus of the Night at the Races. They make it easy because they take care of everything.

There are 10 races on the evening. It's not live simulcasts of races. We use protected, sealed video of thoroughbred horse races, and there is a Federal Statute that governs this.

People bet on the race beforehand and collect on the race afterwards. We have trifectas and those sorts of things. During the 10th and final race, we have an auction. We don't sell horses for that race but auction the 10 of them off. And those horses can command $100 plus each. We usually start the bidding at $10 and the bids rise to as high as $250.

The first thing we do when planning our Night at the Races is secure the venue. Last year we held it at the Ehrnfelt Recreation Center in Strongville, Ohio. Then we ask people to donate gift cards, gift baskets, gift certificates, etc. Last year it was unprecedented in that we had 60 to 80 gift baskets. We use those as prizes for the raffle held at the event.

All of the prize baskets are donated. For instance, I am the owner of Athletic Performance Training Center in North Royalton and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). So I donate a basket that includes gift certificates for different types of training sessions, a t-shirt, and wellness and nutrition products.

There are also themed baskets, like an Ohio State University basket, which includes products donated by OSU. There are golf baskets that include golf balls and a round of golf at a local course. There are restaurant gift baskets with gift certificates and different food items from local restaurants.

Another way we raise funds that night is by selling sideboards, which is basically advertising for local vendors to promote their products. We charge around $25 per sideboard.

Our costs, beyond the outside company, are for the venue and the food. We offer a buffet style dinner, similar to what you might see at a wedding reception or a graduation party with pasta, chicken, and salad.

All the booster club trustees pitch in in terms of helping with coordinating, setting up, organizing, and cleaning up. I work the betting tables in the back of the room with the company who handles the event. It's really a team effort. 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.