Blue Line Club sends delegation to public school board meeting

By Allan Bradbury
Staff writer

A delegation from the Muskies Blue Line Club made a presentation to the Rainy River School District’s Board of Trustees, to express the importance of the Club to the high school hockey program.

The Muskie Blue Line Club is a volunteer organization, which raises funds to support the Fort Frances High School Boys hockey team. The Club’s treasurer, Jackie McCormick, made a presentation to the Board, to impress upon them the invaluable work done by the volunteer parents.

The delegation was requested after an exploratory ad hoc committee was formed to research if a Student Success Foundation could benefit the school community. The Foundation, if formed, could form as a fundraising entity, serving the needs of students. The Committee is charged with exploring charitable status, enabling the board to issue tax receipts. The Committee is in its early exploratory stages, to set parameters and form what a Foundation could look like, if it goes ahead. In a previous interview with the Times, Director of Education Heather Campbell expressed that the idea of the Foundation was sparked by the need for school nutrition funding. Other items could fall under the umbrella of a possible Foundation, including extracurricular activity and equity needs, such as kids in need of clothing or supplies, or supporting schools or initiatives that don’t have as much access to fundraising potential. The Committee has yet to establish its potential relationship to sports booster clubs.

The announcement, and an initial article in the Times caused confusion on the intent of the Foundation. Although a letter from the board to existing booster clubs and subsequent articles have helped to allay the Blue Line Club’s concerns, McCormick felt there was still value to proceeding with the delegation to ensure the future of Muskie hockey and its booster club in its present form.

The group feels a Foundation would be ill-equipped to handle the work taken on by the Blue-line Club.

According to McCormick, the Muskie boys hockey program has an operating budget of $112,000 and a motivated group of volunteers are what enable the program to raise those funds.

“We do most things to do with most financial aspects of running the hockey team,” McCormick said. “The Board (RRDSB) office does pay directly to the Town of Fort Frances for ice and they pay Beaver Bus Lines or whoever is doing our transportation. They, in turn, hand that bill over to me on the Blue Line Club and I pay it. So the Blue Line Club takes care of everything else. We’re paying all the bills, we’re sending the invoices, we solicit and manage all of the donations.”

In addition to finances, the Club runs the team’s social media pages and coordinate community involvement activities for the team like school visits, and thier participation in the Christmas parade, and Trunk or Treat.

“We are looking for some really strong, concrete language within the terms of reference for the new foundation, that they will not be taking over the booster club,” said McCormick. “We want to make sure that’s not the intention now, and it’s not going to be an intention later on.”

McCormick said some members of the Club have expressed concern that bringing them under the umbrella of a Foundation might dampen volunteer enthusiasm.

“If we look at the foundation being more of a financial part of the sport, if they become a revenue source for the Blue Line Club, we think that affects the willingness of volunteers,” McCormick said. “For example, if the foundation says ‘we’re going to collect the donations, but we’re going to give the Blue Line Club X number of dollars, but we’re also going to use some of that money that we take in to operate volleyball or whatever else is under the umbrella of the foundation.’ I think it’s going to make it difficult to have parents say ‘Ok, great I’ll run the 50-50 draw for the Muskies (hockey team) that is going to be handed over to the foundation.’”

McCormick expressed that the high calibre of the Muskies program provides value to the school and community. Although a less competitive program would be less costly, parents believe the extra effort is worth it.

“Having this intense program does mean more travel, it means more tournaments, it means more games and it means more dollars,” McCormick said, adding that the players and the high calibre of the team are a source of pride and inspiration for young players.

“If you have ever been to a Muskie home game you will see the looks on the kids that are this tall, when they look at those Muskie hockey players; they want to be a Muskie hockey player,” she said. “Being a Muskie hockey player is their goal.”