When he became Paris High School’s football coach and athletic director in 2013, Steven Hohenberger noticed something amiss.
Unlike many schools around the state, Paris lacked an athletics booster club. A club had existed, but when the parents who did the bulk of the work stepped away after their children graduated, the club ceased to function. So Hohenberger met with a group of parents and implored them to get the club up and running again.
“He’s a wonderful coach,” Paris Wildcat Athletic Booster Club President Ryan Lassiter said. “He worked with some parents to restart the club, with one stipulation: that the money the club raise doesn’t need to come back to the football program.”
“We haven’t bought anything for the football program,” Lassiter said, “and we are proud of that.”
Lassiter said the club, which continues to grow membership, has several fundraising initiatives throughout the year – including the sale of school merchandise that happens primarily during football games. The club takes requests from the various Wildcats athletic teams and supports each one as best it can, excluding football.
“Coach wants the money spent on sports that maybe aren’t the biggest spectator sports on campus,” Lassiter said. “I think it’s noble of Coach to focus on the other sports. He loves to see all our kids have a chance to be the best athlete and person they can be. I’ve always admired that about him.”
With money raised primarily through merchandise and concessions stands at the school’s annual powerlifting and track invitationals, the PWABC has helped provide new gear for the swim team, a ball machine for the tennis teams, new goals and weather shelter benches for the soccer teams and travel uniforms and jogging suits for the girls basketball programs.
“We like to keep things simple,” Lassiter said. “We have a good time doing the things that we do, and we have been blessed with a great group of volunteers to help us.”
While it’s non-traditional all-sport booster club behavior to actively exclude the school’s largest team, the club does keep up with other traditional booster club responsibilities. At the end of each year, the club hosts a banquet honoring all the school’s teams and athletes.
“We provide all of the awards for the banquet, and we give out a $1,000 scholarship to both a male and female athlete,” Lassiter said. “We want to make sure all of our sports know they are important. ‘We see you and we want to know how we can help you get where you want to be.’”
Lassiter wants to see the booster club continue to grow so it can increase its presence – and ability to raise funds.
“That would help with everything that we currently do,” Lassiter said, “but new people will also bring in new ideas, and that will help us get to another level.”
In the past, the club has hosted pregame tailgate events sponsored by area car dealers. The tailgates always proved popular – a chance for Wildcats fans to gather, check out some new cars, and enjoy hot dogs, hamburgers or even a fish fry before heading into the stadium to watch a team that’s made nine straight trips to the playoffs.
“Those are a chance for people to come out, show everyone how much you love your school and get excited about the game,” Lassiter said.
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