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Flipped into a Fundraiser

On June 25, about 120 people in St. Paul Park, Minn., started their week off with a pancake breakfast hosted by the city's mayor and the Park Girls' Hockey Booster Club. Along with a hearty breakfast buffet, the event featured a visit from four Minnesota Wild ice hockey players. 

As a season-ticket holder, Keith Franke, Mayor of St. Paul Park, Minn., frequently sees the Minnesota Wild players on the ice. However, in June, he had the chance to host a few players for a stop along the team's annual road tour. Rather than keeping the visit limited to his friends and family, Franke decided to turn the event into a fundraiser for the city of St. Paul Park and the Park Girls' Hockey Booster Club.

"Every year the team stops in different cities and visits fans along the way," says Franke. "My name was entered in the drawing and at the end of last year's season, I found out that I had won one of the spaces. They told me they would get in touch at the end of this past season with more details."

About eight months after finding out that he had won a stop, executives from the Wild contacted Franke to let him know when the bus would be coming through town and how long the players could stay. When he received this information, Franke asked about turning the visit into a pancake breakfast fundraiser for both the city of St. Paul Park and the booster club for a local girls' hockey team that his daughter plays on.

"I pitched the idea to the Wild and after a little bit of back and forth between the team's executives and me, they agreed to it," says Franke. "Then the Wild donated an autographed jersey and a hockey stick for the event. The jersey was raffled off, and the stick was given as a prize for a beanbag toss we held at the breakfast. People could pay $2 to play and if they got the beanbag in the hole, their name was entered in a drawing for the stick."

Along with the raffle and beanbag toss, there was a silent auction, which featured hockey memorabilia, gift certificates, and other items that were donated by local businesses. The main attraction, however, was the chance to rub shoulders with the four Wild players who attended.

"The Wild had never done anything like this before with its road tour," Franke says. "What was really cool about it was that the players played the beanbag toss with the kids, and got to interact with people. It wasn't like most autograph signings where you get shuffled through a line while the players are sitting at a table."

Planning the event took about two months after the Wild notified Franke with the date and time. After the fundraiser was agreed upon, Franke secured a local American Legion post as the venue, and worked on collecting donations for the silent auction. Publicizing the event and selling tickets came next.

"We put up flyers, and the Minnesota Wild advertised it on its Web site," Franke says. "We gave each of the girls on the hockey team a stack of tickets they could sell to friends and family members--$20 for adults, and $5 for kids 12 and under--and we also made sure to mention that tickets would be available at the door.
 
"A local sports radio show also promoted it," he continues. "We sent tickets so the station could give two away to its listeners each day for the week leading up to the event. Then the station did its morning show live from the breakfast."
 
The morning of the breakfast started early for Franke and the booster club members. "I got up at 3:30 a.m. and started to prep the food," he says. "Then I arrived at the American Legion at about 4:45 to get everything set up. The booster club parents started to roll in shortly after that, and the event started at 6:00 a.m. The Wild players didn't get in until 7:30, so we had a little lull to catch our breath once everything was on track."
 
Making sure that everything was taken care of before the event helped ensure a smooth start for the day. "For me, it was all about planning, organization, and communication," Franke says. "The last thing I wanted was to be scrambling the day before, because I forgot to take care of something. Then it helped that the parents of the booster club volunteered to take care of the food during the event, which allowed me to mingle and make sure everything else was going smoothly.
 
"We did most of the set up the night before," he continues. "We decorated the hall and had the silent auction items set up. That morning, about 20 members of the girls' hockey team created shifts so they could help, too. All in all, I think it went really smoothly and it raised $2,700 that will be split between the city and the booster club."
 
If a similar event were going to be held in the future, Franke would like to hold it on a weekend, if possible. "But it's kind of iffy, saying we would change things," he says. "It would've given us a better turnout than a Monday morning, but we had to go with what the Minnesota Wild scheduled. So we worked with what we had, and still had a good turnout. I think the most important thing to remember is to look for opportunities with what you have."



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