ROCKINGHAM — The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the play of high school sports across the country the last eight months, and with it, the finances of athletic programs have also been affected.
Richmond Senior High School’s athletic department hasn’t been immune to the economic impact of the virus. But with the help of donors, both locally and across the country, the Richmond athletic fund is getting a boost.
Starting last Wednesday, approximately 100 members of the Richmond football program started a fundraising initiative with the help of Snap! Raise. A 28-day fundraiser, the initial goal was set at $10,000, but that goal was met in the first four days.
Specializing in “digital fundraising,” Snap! Raise is a crowdfunding site that serves as a vehicle to help groups like high school athletic departments achieve large-scale fundraising goals.
The Richmond County Board of Education approved the use of Snap! Raise during its July 9 meeting. While head coach Bryan Till and the Raider football team are the ones directly seeking donations, Till said a certain percentage of the money raised will go to Richmond’s general athletic fund to help out other programs at the school.
“We’re making it through, but we aren’t in great shape financially,” Till, who’s in his fourth season, said. “Normally by this point we have several games’ worth of gate sales to help (with funding).
“The biggest thing is we are trying to prepare for a shortage in funding that’s inevitable,” he continued. “All teams are getting games cut back. We’re asking for help now and hoping people will understand the need early on. We are looking financially at what’s not here now and what’s coming, and trying to take the proper measures.”
Till said the football program’s finances are “not in the hole,” thanks in part to the booster club and to a virtual reverse raffle fundraiser that was held in June.
Since football players were not able to attend camps or clinics over the spring and summer, the funds normally used for those activities have been applied to the general upkeep of equipment and the program this fall.
“We’ve had to dip into our fundraiser money to purchase normal equipment and get our helmets reconditioned,” Till explained. “Money that we use for camps and clinics has been applied to buying new girdles and undershirts.”
The idea to use Snap! Raise came last spring after other schools in the region like Jack Britt and Pine Forest high schools successfully used it to raise large amounts of money. According to athletic director Rob Ransom at the July approval meeting, Richmond will keep 80 percent of the funds raised with the other 20 percent going to Snap! Raise.
Till noted that the use of social media, coupled with the pandemic’s forcing of more things to go virtual, will hopefully lead to a successful fundraiser.
“What I’ve learned since I took this job is that there are Raider fans all over the country,” Till said. “Our use of social media in the last year has helped us reach people outside our community and we felt that (Snap! Raise) could benefit our school by giving people the opportunity to give back no matter where they are.”
On the team’s donation page, videos of seniors Caleb Hood and Jaleel Davis, along with C.J. Tillman and junior J.D. Lampley, encourage fans to donate and spread the word via social media. It’s also mentioned that donations are tax deductible.
At the time of publication, a total of $10,585 had been raised with 24 days left to donate. The team’s overall goal was increased to $20,000. Those wishing to donate money can pick a particular player to support, but all funding will go into the group’s general account.
On the webpage, messages of encouragement from Raider fans and donors can also be read.
Aside from paying for equipment upgrades, the money raised will also go toward COVID-19 safety materials, travel costs and any unexpected expenditures incurred over the course of the school year.
“We don’t know what COVID is going to do, just like when we game plan for Friday nights, we can’t plan for everything,” Till said. “So we want to try to raise money now and be prepared in case things change.”
Some possibilities that Till mentioned were buying face shields for helmets or neck gaiters for players, coaches and personnel on the sidelines.
“It’s not surprising to see the amount of support already,” Till closed. “I’m thankful that people are willing to get behind us and want to be a part of our program. It’s great that a lot of people care about our kids and want to help them out.”