By Adam Riglian
When someone comes up to Gary Leonard Sr. looking for money, he doesn’t turn them away.
“I get a lot of hugs,” Leonard joked.
For the past eight years, Leonard has worked as president of Save Our Sports, the charitable boosters organization that has served as a financial backbone for Brockton High School and junior high sports for the past 18 years.
“They always know they can come to me with any problems they have,” Leonard said.
In one form or another, every school has some sort of booster program. Some are run by the devoted, lifelong followers of local sports, others are organized by a rotating group of parents looking to enhance the athletic experience for their kids.
They contribute in many ways big and small. Most take control of concessions and merchandising at games and provide the extras that have fallen out of athletic budgets, such as plaques, banquets and trophies. Others handle the big requests that could never fit in tight school budgets.
Save Our Sports was instrumental in helping Brockton build its weight room facility and practice fields after the Brockton Rox took over parts of campus. They’ve also kept user fees away from the athletic programs, which have become commonplace in most towns.
“While I’m standing here on this earth, I’m here to see that doesn’t happen,” Leonard said. “I don’t think any child in the school system should be left out.”
“We go from year to year and, of course, the threat of it is always there, but we’re prepared. And that’s in tribute to the contributions we get from local businesses and private parties throughout the city. There’s a lot of pride out there.”
While Brockton’s group has been able to tackle the big problems financially, others are more focused on volunteerism. The Rockland boosters have a roster upward of 40 persons they can call on to work concessions stands and take tickets.
“The bulk of the money in our operating budget comes through the concession stand, but we do run several fundraisers throughout the year,” club president Toni Happnie said.
Happnie credits some of the club’s fundraising strength to improved school spirit at Rockland High, noting game attendance is up amongst students.
“They have been tremendous since the beginning of the school year, they are the most spirited group of kids,” Happnie said. “You’ll see the football team come out for a volleyball game, the volleyball team go out to a soccer game, it’s a tremendously supportive student body. And I’d have to say the same for the athletic director and the coaches. It really is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a parent over the last four years.”
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