OGDEN — More than 1,000 students and their families from the Ogden School District enjoyed a free night of Ogden Raptors baseball recently, but students will also reap the rewards of the night in the way of classroom help thanks to many sponsors of the baseball night.
The group raised $23,000 to put back in the classrooms from the night.
Prior to this year, the most the foundation had raised from the night was $3,000, said Ogden School Foundation director, Janis Vause. The board members worked much harder to make the night a success this year, she said.
Board member, Derick Wright was asked to co-chair the event for the foundation and his committee was told the event could be bigger and better than it had been in the past, so they went to work to make that happen. Wright and his committee had a special meeting with businesses and possible sponsors during the summer to generate interest in the night and to let the sponsors know how important the event could be for the students.
“I think they felt that sense of community,” Wright said of the possible sponsors after the meeting, at which Raptors team members were also invited.
Wright met with team president and general manager Dave Baggott, where the idea of having several players visit the schools in the district to meet the kids.
“I know if when I was a kid a baseball player came to my school and invited me to a game, I would be there,” Wright said.
That, along with a publicity blitz by the foundation that included telephone calls to homes, a Facebook page, flyers and school announcements about the game, resulted in one of the largest attended Raptors games of the season.
Some of the sponsors came along with the Raptors players when they visited the elementary and junior high schools and were impressed and amazed with the response from the students and some have already promised to double their donations for next year.
“It was amazing. One of the kids just threw their arms around one of the players as he talked to them (at their school),” Vause said.
Originally, the idea was for the sponsors to help pay for the tickets, so the students could get in for free as well as purchase signed balls, T-shirts and meal tickets. But as donations started rolling in, the foundation realized they would do much more with the money than just a free baseball night for students.
Now, because of the many sponsorships, the foundation has an additional $25,000 to go toward teacher and school grants, which in turn goes directly back into the classrooms of all the students in the district.
“We owe a huge thanks to Dave Baggott and the Raptors,” Vause said.
The three-way partnership between the Raptors, the Foundation and the sponsors was a win-win for everyone, Vause said.
Wright loved watching the response of the students. Some students were so excited for the night they started lining up to get into the game at 4 p.m., two hours before the game started. He also enjoyed watching the enthusiasm they felt as they personally got to visit with the baseball players while at school before the games.
“I think that was the key that made all the difference,” he said of the success of the night both on and off the field.
Vause has been impressed with the generosity of the community in tough economic times and hopes it will continue.
Wright feels confident it will continue and plans to make next year’s Raptors night even more successful.
“It goes back to the kids and that’s what we need,” Wright said.