Fan club helps Esky school finances

Deborah Prescott | Daily Press Eskymo Fan Club President Linda Beauchamp, Escanaba Athletic Director Nick Nolde, Escanaba Superintendent Coby Fletcher and Escanaba Senior High School Principal Darci Griebel stand in front of one of the entryway walls going into the gym that hold tiles purchased by Escanaba supporters. Each entry way will be covered in tiles listing Escanaba fans who purchased a tile. According to Beauchamp, becoming a member of the Eskymo Fan Club is the most important way to support athletics in the Escanaba School District.

ESCANABA — The Eskymo Fan Club is not just another fan club. They are a club that helps install new lights in the high school gym, sidewalks at the track, and feeds visiting football teams from outside the U.P. All these activities and more are reflected in the school budget Escanaba Superintendent Coby Fletcher reviews during the school year.

“As I get through the budgeting process … I’m totally blown away by all the things our fan club is doing for the schools, including covering all district post-season play,” said Fletcher. “I’ve worked with many fan clubs … and this one does some really neat things.”

The fan club has supported the school, giving just over $100,000 each year for the past few years. Since May, the fan club donated $68,000 in the school district. Forty percent went toward students fall travel during post-season sports and 26 percent supported student athletes playing winter sports.

“We still have to pay for the spring season,” said volunteer Gary Seehefer. “Last year the amount totaled $17,000 … for uniforms, post-season travel, and equipment.”

Seehefer joined the fan club in 1971 when there were only nine sports played. The next year, girls started playing sports and the number of games increased. Now in 2019, Escanaba offers 21 sports, track, football, volleyball, cross country, sideline cheer, tennis, basketball, wrestling, competitive cheerleading, gymnastics, bowling, golf, softball, and baseball. Boys and girls compete with varsity, junior varsity, freshman and junior high classifications. Two sports are shared with Gladstone High School, varsity hockey and swimming.

Escanaba student athletes are aware of the contributions the fan club makes to keep athletic programs going. During the recent sports award ceremony, Fletcher noted how many times the students mentioned the fan club, showing the vital role the fan club plays.

Christer Carne recently graduated from Escanaba with nine varsity letters. He received benefits from the Escanaba School District having a strong fan club through his years in sports.

“I talked with some friends from Marquette, when we went to a playoff event for hockey, and they were staying in cheaper motels while we were staying in nicer hotels,” said Carne. “The fan club made our travels away from home easier and we were better prepared to play.”

Escanaba Football Coach Dave Howes is very appreciative of the support given to athletics and notices how student athletes are a priority.

“Knowing the fan club has our back is really important, for every sport,” said Howes.

The fan club only sees revenue after working the concession stand during a football game at home. Other funding comes from membership drives and yearly fund raisers as the Spring Fling, Golf Scramble, pasty sale, and raffles.

“I enjoy the concession stand the most,” said Escanaba Fan Club President Linda Beauchamp. “But the hardest is the Spring Fling … the golf outing is the most fun, not as much work but we still make close to the same amount of money off it.”

The Escanaba Fan Club organized in the late 1950s. Currently, there are just under 1,000 members who contribute to the biggest revenue supply the fan club receives, membership fees. One hundred percent goes to student athletics. Any business, individual and organization may join the fan club. They meet every fourth Monday at 6:30 p.m. in the library at the high school.

The fan club’s newest fundraiser is selling engraved pavers, blocks and tiles to be installed at the athletic field and in the high school.

“Past coach Sandy Raymond, who coached multiple girl sports for years, purchased 33 tiles in honor of every team she coached,” said Beauchamp. “It really speaks to Eskymo pride. My Dad graduated from Esky in 1940. He played on the 1939 football team as center … they went undefeated, un-scored upon, nobody made it past the 50 yard line and they’re honored out there (athletic field).”

The fan club has reimbursed the school for installation of lights and flooring in the high school gym and moved bleachers from the middle of the track to the finish line so it would be easier for fans to see the result of competitions. Recently the fan club gave money to the school for the weight room.

“You can’t imagine the number of compliments we receive from visiting coaches, teams, fans,” said Escanaba Athletic Director Nick Nolde. “In the past the fan club has paid for the visiting team’s bus just to play. It is hard to get teams to come up here and play football, play games against us.”

Nolde is appreciative of the many hours Beauchamp puts into the fan club out of the kindness of her heart.

“Everything the fan club does goes back to the kids,” said Escanaba Senior High Principal Darci Griebel. “The fan club is completely student athlete driven. We can’t thank them enough for that.”

Little Mo’s, a program for younger students to be fans, came from an idea Beauchamp had 10 years ago. She wanted to give the younger kids an opportunity to really become Eskymos at an early age. The program introduces Little Mo’s to as many junior and senior high school sports and athletes as they can. The Little Mo’s get to ask the athletes questions and have a snack with them.

“Sarah Hill generously took it over for me and has done an outstanding job growing the program into what it is now,” said Beauchamp.

If it wasn’t for the Escanaba Fan Club there wouldn’t be as many sports available to students. It’s important to the fan club to maintain all sports so every kid has an opportunity to participate in the sport they want to.

“There’s something for everyone,” said Beauchamp. “We had a girl finish second in the state this year in bowling.”

Fletcher acknowledges the fan club is something special the school district needs to continue athletic programs.

“For me I look at the fan club from the perspective of the superintendent. There are so many things we are able to do as a district because of the fan club support,” said Fletcher. “I don’t think you’ll find any school in the area that comes close to what we offer here. Think about the cost of post-season play, maybe $70,000 dollars this year. If I had to find that in the budget the only way would be to cut something else.”

The Escanaba Fan Club asks members to help volunteer at the next fundraiser or sporting event.

“It’s not just a fan club. To me the fan club works because of the community. Businesses in town are so generous it’s amazing, the individuals too,” said Seehefer. “They give whether they’re giving financially or their time, which makes Escanaba a better place to live.”

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