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Corbett parents try to save junior varsity sports

Boosters group has raised more than $25,000, enough to restore middle school, JV sports for fall 2006 term
by: File Photo, Corbett’s Dan Kerslake tries to leap over Portland Christian tacklers during the Cardinals’ 28-7 win last year. The win clinched Corbett’s first Northwest League football title in 20 years. The Corbett Boosters Club has been instrumental in keeping Corbett’s middle school and junior varsity athletics programs alive this school year. Its members hope to enlist the aid of corporate sponsors to continue their efforts.

When Matt Stevens, a freshman at Corbett High School, found out his school district had cut funding for all middle school and junior varsity sports, the 15-year-old wanted to transfer.

'He asked if he could go to Barlow, so he could play football this year,' remembers Matt's dad, Eric Stevens.

Like many Corbett parents, Eric Stevens and his wife Chemae had moved to Corbett specifically for the schools, so they didn't want to see their oldest child give up a shot at a stellar academic career.

Instead of transferring Matt to another district, Eric Stevens decided to help the Corbett athletic program.

Along with several other parents and community members, Stevens formed the Corbett Boosters Club this summer.

In less than three months, the club has raised about $25,000 - enough to restore middle school and junior varsity sports for the fall term.

But they are still far from their ultimate goal.

'We need to raise at least $75,000 a year to keep the programs going,' Stevens, the club's president, says. 'The $25,000 restored funding for fall sports.'

About half of the money came from athlete fees, which have been raised from $75 to $125 per sport.

The club hopes to raise at least $80,000 a year through four main funding sources - student athlete fees; Booster club membership dues; corporate donations; and fund-raising efforts.

The group is also selling season passes for all Corbett athletic events for $125. 'These are mainly for people who don't have students at Corbett, but who like to go to the games,' Stevens says. 'In a small town like Corbett, going to the game on Friday night gives people something to do. I'd hate to see that disappear.'

Corbett schools have made national headlines recently for students' academic gains, but the district's athletic department has built a solid reputation too. Last year, Corbett's football team, the Cardinals, won the Northwest League title for the first time in 20 years.

Most areas offer only club sports at the middle school level, which can be cost-prohibitive for many students, but Corbett and Gresham-Barlow both offer middle school athletic programs.

'These aren't kids who would play club sports,' Stevens says. 'They're just a group of kids who want to be active.'

Due to some severe budget cuts, the district decided this summer to cut the middle school and junior varsity athletic programs.

'We managed to save varsity athletics,' Corbett Superintendent Bob Dunton said in June, a few days before the school board voted to eliminate the other athletic programs.

In a district the size of Corbett, absorbing budget cuts isn't easy. The district cut its administrative staff from 12 to six and is doing without many basics, including a middle school principal and school counselors.

Dunton has said his district is already 'so thin in administration, it's an experiment whether this will even work.'

Cutting athletics was a last resort, and district leaders shuffled funds to retain varsity sports.

Stevens and the parents in the booster group understand this, but they don't want to see sports disappear in Corbett.

'Without junior varsity, the football program would wither away in a year or two,' Stevens says. 'It's the same with all sports. If you cut the feeder programs, the varsity programs will wither.'

The booster club hopes corporate sponsors - perhaps former Corbett athletes or companies that rely on Corbett residents - will step up to help.

One corporation, Konell Construction, has already donated $2,500.

The next fund-raiser for the Corbett Boosters will take place at the Homecoming game against Knappa High, which begins at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6, at the Corbett football field.

'Come out and enjoy a fun evening,' Stevens says. 'We'll have the grills going … and it's a lot cheaper than going out to a movie on a Friday night!'

Corbett Boosters

What: A non-profit group that is trying to restore middle school and junior varsity sports in the Corbett School District.

Goal: The group must raise at least $75,000 a year to maintain fall, winter and spring athletic programs at the

middle school and junior varsity level.

Where does the money come from: The group raises money four ways:

student fees, booster membership dues, fund-raisers and corporate sponsorships.

To donate: Call Eric Stevens,

president of the Boosters Club, at 503-695-5575.