When it all started long ago, no one envisioned this day coming.
While it has been an overwhelming success over the years, raising millions along the way, a major annual fundraiser at South Pasadena High School has been shelved due to the coronavirus.
“COVID has brought most of our operations to a screeching halt,” explained Dianne Parker, the SPHS Boosters president, talking about the organization’s longtime weekly Tiger Bingo fundraiser, which traditionally brings in about $250,000 annually to support a variety of campus programs.
The Saturday night ritual, going strong since 1985 until the pandemic set in, had moved to the South Pasadena Middle School gymnasium last year while reconstruction efforts of the local high school’s athletic facilities were underway, but the games were stopped in March after the governor declared a stay-at-home order, putting them on hold and slowing a major and much-needed revenue stream.
The South Pasadena High Booster Club, celebrating its 50th anniversary, runs Tiger Bingo, the fundraising mechanism for a variety of clubs, activities, and athletic teams on campus. The weekly entertainment for hundreds, some driving long distances to get there, is run by both volunteer parents and students with a vested interest. Many of the adults serve on a board overseeing its non-profit status, volunteer weekly, holding down a myriad of functions to keep its operation running smoothly weekly, joining teens who give up their Saturday nights recognizing the time they put in financially supports the sports team, club or activity on campus they represent.
Bingo also helps pay for equipment and travel to various school functions, supports large scale facility improvements, funds an athletic trainer position, subsidizes team banquets, promotes school spirit through merchandise sales, raises funds for five scholarships going to graduating seniors and provides discretionary funding through the SPHS Athletic Department.
“Through the general fund, the Booster Club provides equipment grants – $35,000 per year – to SPHS athletic teams and clubs or other academic groups, funds five $1,000 scholarships to graduating seniors, funds special projects for campus facilities up to $25,000 per year, and provides grants to SPHS groups for certain advanced level competitions,” further explained Booster Club President Dianne Parker. “We typically fund the general fund through a portion of our Saturday night bingo proceeds. But, bingo was abruptly shut down after March 7th and we are unlikely to be able to reopen until at least January 2021.”
In addition to raising big dollars for the school, the Booster Club manages the bookkeeping for SPHS athletic teams and some school classes, including woodshop and photography.
Along with bingo, the club also raises funds through membership dues, the popular 5k/10k Tiger Run, cash donations, and Amazon Smile, allowing individuals to support the organization every time they purchase something from the e-commerce giant.
Parker explained the Booster Club receives donations and other fundraising income specifically for student groups, which it maintains in team accounts for athletic teams, or passes along to the Associated Student Body (ASB), (Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), or SPHS Music Boosters. Since 1998, the last year records were kept, the Boosters Club has impacted nearly 100 students, providing total of $89,500 in scholarships.
“We were able to fulfill our commitments for the end of the (2019-2020) school year, namely the awarding of scholarships, the fulfillment of certain equipment grants, and the contribution of funds to SPUSD for the SPHS Athletic Trainer,” explained Parker, one of roughly 18 Booster Club presidents in the club’s 50-year history. “We also celebrated SPHS teachers, staff and graduating seniors with gifts of Tiger merchandise to show our appreciation of them! But, the Booster Club general fund lost about $50,000 in expected funding from bingo due to the combination of the move to the South Pasadena Middle School and COVID. And, while we have a healthy reserve, we will not be able to sustain that magnitude of decreased revenue for very long.”
Like so many events, the annual Tiger Run, scheduled for December and counted on for about $13,000 each year, is in jeopardy. “At this time, it is unclear if we will be able to hold an in-person run,” said Parker. “There are so many factors that will dictate that. But, we continue to plan for all possible outcomes.”
To help fill the funding gap and celebrate its 50th year, the SPHS Booster Club is kicking off a $50 for 50 fundraising campaign to jumpstart its general fund in face of the deadly virus. “We are looking to the generosity of SPHS families, alumni, community members, and other interested parties to help us fill the gap,” said Parker. “We are extremely proud of the support 50 years of Booster Club has provided to the students of SPHS and we are looking forward to the next 50 years!”
Those looking to support the $50 for 50 Years campaign can go here.
The SPHS Boosters Club got started a half century ago when the high school’s football team was in its heyday, winning league titles, a top CIF contender and among the top programs in the San Gabriel Valley. Throughout the years it evolved into an organization that presently raises funds for more than 50 clubs, activities, and athletic teams through volunteer opportunities for parents and students.
“Within the history of South Pasadena High School, various informal groups of parents have gathered to fundraise for various school activities and called themselves ‘Booster Clubs,’” Parker said, talking about the club’s start.
In 1970, Parker said the then current group of fundraising parents formalized themselves into The Tiger Booster Club of South Pasadena High, raising funds primarily for SPHS athletics. Due to severe budget cuts in the mid-1980s, “the Booster Club decided it needed to amp up its fundraising efforts and created Tiger Bingo, which began holding Saturday night bingo in early 1986,” Parker noted.
On February 24, 1986, becoming a tried and true corporate fundraising entity, the South Pasadena High School Tiger Booster Club came to fruition as an official non-profit corporation and a registered charitable trust, which it remains to this day. The club has about 200 members annually “but our goal is to grow that membership to better represent the depth and breadth of the students that we support,” insisted Parker, looking forward to the day when life returns to normal.
“Tiger Bingo boasts a very loyal following of regulars who have been coming for years, and for that we are very grateful,” she continued. “Once Bingo is back up and running, all community members (aged 18 or over, except SPHS Students) are welcome to come play. We guarantee you will have fun, while supporting a worthwhile cause – our students! We are continuously thinking of ways to provide bingo in a safe and enjoyable manner once we are able to open up. We can hardly wait for that day!”