Group continues fundraising to cover student travel costs to state competition

The Wrangell Athletic Club expects to have raised about $22,000 in donations by the end of June to reimburse the school district, which advanced about $34,000 this past school year to cover the cost of student travel to state competition.

Volunteers created the nonprofit organization last year to raise money for state travel after the school board said it could not afford to cover the expenses.

Club president Chris Johnson said they will send the district whatever funds it has raised by next month.

In her latest financial report to the school board, district business manager Kristy Andrew estimated the state travel fund deficit is around $34,000 — the gap left after collecting a $400 travel fee from each participating student.

Wrangell sent athletes to several state championships this past school year, including girls volleyball, boys basketball, wrestling and cross country.

Thus far, the club has raised over $12,000 and expects $10,000 from two other contributors before June 30, the end of the district’s fiscal year, but Johnson stressed the group is under no obligation to cover the entire deficit, as their work is strictly voluntary.

He said he felt confident the club would eventually raise more money, based on verbal commitments of some substantial donations, “but they’re not going to come in by this deadline.”

Schools Superintendent Bill Burr said the district will keep the negative account balance on the books so that the club can eventually catch up. “They’ll pay at the level that they can,” he said, adding that whatever the club cannot pay this year will roll over into the next one.

The club, which came together last fall, raises money for school sports and activities at the state level. “The school (district) does all the booking,” Johnson said, “They get a major discount from hotels and Alaska Airlines because they’re a school.”

Much of their focus has been on large corporate donors. “It’s a little harder to get (donations) in the beginning of the year from companies that are just getting going,” he said. “We’re just laying off of the smaller, local businesses. … We’ve made a conscious decision to try to target the big guys first, see where we stand and then (determine) what more needs to be done after that.”

He added the club wants to be able to eventually raise enough money so that the district could cut the annual travel fee to $200 per student. “$400 is too much for families that have three kids that may qualify for three sports a year,” Johnson said. “That could be pretty expensive.”


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