You'd be hard-pressed to find a Crosby-Ironton resident who's not bursting with Ranger Pride right now as the boys' basketball team prepares to play Friday in the Class 2A state semifinals in Minneapolis.
Nearly the entire community is expected to be in attendance at the Target Center Friday night watching their hometown boys play. Ann Silgren, a C-I resident, jokingly asked her husband Wednesday night during the quarterfinals game who was missing at the game, as opposed to who was there.
But there's a greater issue at stake for the basketball team at Friday's game than the state title. C-I sports enthusiasts are hoping that all those who are now rallying behind the boys' team this weekend also will help make sure the boys have a team next season, along with all other C-I sports. The C-I School District, after its failed referendum last November, will be forced to cut all sports activities next fall unless the Save Our Sports Committee raises enough funds to save them.
The committee's goal is to raise $250,000 by April 30 in order to retain all sports as they exist now. Silgren, who is in charge of public relations for the C-I Save Our Sports Committee, said the committee has raised a little more than $40,000 so far. Last week committee members learned they've received a $25,000 challenge grant from the Hallett Charitable Trust, a matching grant if they can raise that same additional amount by April 30. She said they're hoping to soon receive word on whether they've received other grants they've applied for, too.
While donations have been consistent since fundraising efforts began in mid-January, they have tapered off, said Silgren. She said they're hoping that the excitement over the C-I boys' basketball team going to state will spur a renewed interest in donating to save the C-I sports programs. Committee members handed out fliers on the fundraising efforts at Wednesday's game and plan to do the same on Friday night. Silgren said a Twin Cities television news channel also intends to do a story on the boys' basketball team reaching the state tourney despite the financial struggles within the school district, which may help bring in additional financial support.
"It can't hurt," said Silgren. "I just can't believe the amount of community support and Ranger Pride and the backing of the team during this tournament. I'm just really so happy for the team and it's been a great boost for morale."
"We certainly don't want it to go away," said Dave Niemi, C-I activities director, of the community support for the team. "To see people going down there and supporting this team, it's phenomenal to watch."
Niemi quickly pointed out that C-I has a lot of good sports programs and activities and any of these teams could go to state - as long as they continue to have the opportunity to do so.
Another volunteer committee, C-I Music Boosters, also is raising funds to help save C-I Schools' fine arts programs. This group has until Aug. 1 to raise $25,000 to save elementary, junior high and senior high fine arts programs. The actual funds needed to retain what exists now are $19,979.30. While band and choir during the school day will not be affected by budget cuts, all music activities that happen outside the school day will be discontinued, including all band and choir concerts, field trips, solo/ensemble rehearsals, vocal lessons, all fundraising activities, pep band performances, choir festivals and tours, Eastertide and more, affecting students in all grade levels.
According to Music Boosters co-chair Gail Gustafson, the group so far has raised $4,065.70.
The SOS Committee has a couple of fundraising events planned in April. A "Music at Mayberry" event is planned for 7 p.m. April 3 at C-I High School. There will be 13 musical groups performing in the Mayberry Auditorium. Admission is $5. Proceeds from this event will benefit both the SOS and C-I Music Boosters groups. A beer and wine-tasting event also is scheduled for 3-5 p.m. April 26 at Lonesome Pine Restaurant in Deerwood. The event is sponsored by Lonesome Pine Restaurant and Case Wise Liquor of Brainerd and all proceeds benefit the SOS Committee. Admission is $20. A golf tournament in June is being planned.
To donate to the C-I Save Our Sports Committee, donations may be sent before April 30 to Save Our Sports, P.O. Box 203, Ironton, MN 56445.
To donate to C-I Music Boosters, donations may be sent before Aug. 1 to C-I Music Boosters, 93 Karie Lane, Brainerd, MN 56401.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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