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Youth league hoping to score needed funds

November 09, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown Junior Basketball League had it all planned - entertainment for the children, musical acts, a flea market and a craft show. All were among the attractions at Saturday's Fall Fling fund-raiser at Fairgrounds Park in Hagerstown.

But all the planning and help from the city of Hagerstown to clean up the upper grandstand building and stalls wasn't enough to turn Saturday's event into a success. Vendors began packing up two to three hours early because of a small turnout by spectators.

They'll be out again today, when the attractions will include a 5K run, a Yellow Ribbon Salute to Veterans and a sports auction.

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"It's no use going out and painting a bright picture saying we had 5,000 people before you showed up," League President Ken Welch said Saturday.

Welch said he's becoming more familiar with the difficulties of fund-raising, including receiving little business and community support.

When asked to give a donation, businesses tell him they have no money left in their budgets or that they don't give to youth sports leagues, he said.

The basketball league, which is in its 56th season, created Fall Fling this year in an attempt to raise money to pay for a place to practice and play.

Welch said the league used Washington County Public Schools facilities at no charge for years. Beginning this season, however, the Board of Education began charging youth groups hourly fees of $3 for fields and $5 to use schoolrooms.

The School Board approved the fees to make up for budget shortfalls, it said.

Welch said the league and other groups either have to come up with a way to find the money for fees or disband.

The basketball league will have to give the School Board $2,500 this year to play basketball and $6,000 for next season, Welch said. The league, which has an annual budget of $22,000 to $25,000, has 280 children and operates five nights a week for five months.

Welch said the School Board "cut us a break" this year on the expense, because it had approved the fees in late summer and on short notice.

The league has had to raise it participation fee from $30 per child to $35 to help pay for some of the fees and hopes to raise enough money to pay for remaining costs.

Fall Fling is one of four fund-raisers the league will hold through December.

Without raising money, the basketball league would have to charge each child a $60 to $100 fee to participate, Welch said. At that rate, he estimated about 25 percent of the league's members would drop out.

That, he said, would put them out on the streets after school. As part of their participation in the league, he said children are mentored and given support by coaches.

"A lot of these kids are from broken homes," Welch said. "They don't get a well-structured family life at home."

Welch said the school fees will cause several groups to fold, because they won't be able to afford the expense.

Welch hopes today's event will turn out better. He said the league had hoped to raise $2,000 to $3,000 from Fall Fling.

"That's probably not going to be the case," Welch said. "It was not the blow-out turnout that we expected.

"If (today's) not a success, we could very well see a $1,500 to $2,000 loss."

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