Fundraising effort kicks off

The tally board shows the total donations to the Johnstown Purple and Gold Club and Johnstown High School sports teams in a two-hour span at a fundraiser Wednesday night at the Johnstown Performing Arts Center. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

JOHNSTOWN — At a time when student athletes are normally signed up to participate in the upcoming fall sports season, there has been a slight hesitation.

Tuesday voters approved the Greater Johnstown School District’s $37.8 million 2019-20 budget that included $200,000 for transportation for athletics but not support for the districts sports teams.

If the school’s athletes want to compete in the upcoming school year, they need to raise the $311,890 that was among the cuts made from the originally proposed budget on May 21.

“It is a little early yet,” interim athletic director Mike Satterlee said. “After tonight, when they are confident we will have money and will have sports I think that will help out a little bit more. Right now, they are not sure and you don’t want to do something you are not sure about.”

Wednesday night, with the support of the district’s Purple and Gold Sports Booster Club and coaches, the Sir Bills and Lady Bills kicked up the fundraising campaign with the 1,000 Citizens to Save Our Sports event in the Johnstown High School auditorium.

A group of Johnstown athletes keep an eye on the tally board in the Johnstown Auditorium Wednesday as people file in to make donations to help support the schools sports programs. The Greater Johnstown School District revised budget passed in Tuesday's vote without athletics in the budget. The teams have to raise $311,000 for all teams to participate in the upcoming 2019-2020 season. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

Looking for 1,000 people to donate $311 apiece, the group put a dent in their goal, raising $94,850.75 in pledges in a span of two hours.

“All the coaches came together with Mr. Satterlee, [Johnstown superintendent of schools] Patricia Kilburn and [assistant superintendent] Ruthie Cook and said ‘what can we do to save our sports?'” JHS varsity girls lacrosse coach Denise Benton said. “We brainstormed and said we need to engage Purple and Gold. We engaged the Purple and Gold Booster Club, so we are now a complete unified front working together.”

Wednesday’s 1000 Citizens to Save Our Sports event drew a large crowd of supporters from around the area.

“Look around, these kids don’t want to lose their sports,” Benton, whose team won the Section II Class D championship this spring, said. “We are representing every single sport in Johnstown here tonight. I am looking around and I see Gloversville girls soccer coach Mike Hallenbeck here and there are people here from other teams and organizations we play with or are associated with.”

The Johnstown School District has student athletes competing on more than 50 teams in more than 20 different sports. Approximately 60 percent of the enrollment participates in sports during the school year with about 40 percent participating in two or more sports.

Johnstown High School field hockey and basketball player Abigail VanValkenburgh wears the school colors as she waits outside to welcome contributors to the Johnstown Performing Arts Center Wednesday to help fund the Johnstown Athletic programs for the upcoming season. The Greater Johnstown School District revised budget passed in Tuesday's vote without athletics in the budget. The teams have to raise $311,000 for all teams to participate in the upcoming 2019-2020 season. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

The majority of the Johnstown teams compete in the Foothills Council.

“We have had some discussions in the league already and they are willing to help us anyway they can,” Satterlee said. “The Foothills, we hate each other when we play each other, but love each other when we are not. It has been that way for a long time. They already made a motion to waive our league fees and stuff like that if it gets to that point. They are willing to do anything they can to help us out.”

Satterlee noted that the group needs to raise approximately $120,000 to fund the schools fall sports programs.

“It is amazing,” Satterlee said of the support shown Wednesday. “There were people lined up out the door. I said from the start that I have a lot of confidence in our community to rally to support us and here they are showing it.”

Further fundraising events are planned for the upcoming months.

Johnstown High School athletes line the walkway leading up to the doors to the Johnstown Performing Arts Center Wednesday night. The Greater Johnstown School District revised budget passed in Tuesday's vote without athletics in the budget. The teams have to raise $311,000 for all teams to participate in the upcoming 2019-2020 season. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

“We are here trying to raise $311,000 to keep all our sports going in fall, winter and spring,” Benton said. “Our intention was to raise as big of a chunk as we can tonight because this is not our only event but this is our kick off. We want to make sure these kids don’t miss out on anything this year.”

A line of area residents extends up the aisle and into the entrance hall at the Johnstown Auditorium Wednesday to help fund the Johnstown Athletic programs for the upcoming season. The Greater Johnstown School District revised budget passed in Tuesday's vote without athletics in the budget. The teams have to raise $311,000 for all teams to participate in the upcoming 2019-2020 season. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

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