Go to any Reagan High School athletic event and you will more than likely see Jeff or Melinda Buell there supporting the Rattlers.
“They attend everything,” said Rattlers football coach Lyndon Hamilton, who counts their son Rhett as one of his quarterbacks. “They are non-stop. They are at parent meetings, at booster club meetings for all sports and they are all about getting everyone in the community involved in supporting Reagan athletics.”
You’d figure the Buells would be heavily involved with the football booster club, and they are. Jeff is in the second year of a two-year term as co-president alongside Melinda, who is also co-president. But they are big-picture people and want Rhett to see that there’s more to school spirit than supporting the football team.
“We are driven to do all we can for the other sports because we know how hard all of them work,” Jeff said. “Yes, our son plays football, and football just happens to be a giant sport. But I swam and played water polo and Melinda played soccer and golf and cheered in high school. We know how hard all of the athletes work and it is important that we support all of their efforts.”
The other booster clubs notice when football boosters attend their meetings.
“When we go to other meetings, you can really see how happy everyone is when people who maybe don’t have a direct connection to that sport pay attention to it,” Jeff said “When everyone is happy, that makes everything better.”
That whole-school approach started early for the Buells. Jeff’s first involvement with the Diamondbacker booster club came when he found out a baseball fundraising effort to build a new batting cage came up short despite raising a record amount of funds.
As a successful homebuilder, he’s often asked to support different fundraising efforts and attend fundraisers around town. One of his favorites had been a skeet shoot, so he suggested the baseball boosters hold one to raise the rest of the money they needed. It worked.
“I’d been to skeet shoots,” he said. “They are easy to put on, fun to take part in and easy for businesspeople to get to. We raised the rest of the money to fund the batting cage, and now we’re getting set to do our fourth skeet shoot in January or Feburary.”
Since then, Buell has been a key factor in helping businesses in the community support the entire Reagan athletic program, not just football.
“What I’ve found is that every business has marketing money to spend,” he said. “You just have to help them do it. Show them where they can put their money, and high school sports is a great way to give them exposure and give them a place to take clients. If you can help them see what they are supporting, they are much more apt to write that check.”
And the businesses that Jeff, Melinda and their fellow boosters can convince to support all of the Reagan athletic programs, the better they’ll leave the community when Rhett graduates in 2020 and he next group of parent leaders take over.
“When we joined the booster club, they were doing a very good job already,” Jeff said. “When our term is done, we want to hand the playbook to the next group so they will know what to do."
And the first play is making sure the football boosters continue to look beyond the gridiron.
“The other programs may be smaller than football [in size], but they have needs as well,” Jeff said. “The more these clubs come together and look at things from all other perspectives, they’ll be able to make better decisions, both financially and spiritually in the sense of increasing overall school spirit. Whether you’re coming off the bench in your sport or you’re cheering from the stands, your spirit matters.”