By Bill Toscano
The Whitehall Youth League, which provides more than 225 youths in grades 3-6 the chance to play baseball and offers football and cheerleading to about 70, has lost one-third of its funding because of the ban on coin drops.
“If you add everything up, we probably spend about $20,000, and about one-third of that came from the two coin drops we did, one for baseball and one for softball,” said league President John Hoagland. “We do get a lot of support from other places, but that’s a lot to make up. We could really use some ideas.”
Toward that end, Hoagland and Vice President Ed Rehm will be hosting an open community meeting at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 9, at the Whitehall Rec Center. “We’d like to see anyone in the community come, because we need ideas. This is not a league meeting. It’s a community meeting,”
Hoagland said he hopes to see parents of athletes there, as well as regular community members. “We have never asked the town or village for funds, but we provide a community service. We need people to help us figure out how to cope with that.”
Last year, a local resident complained about an American Legion coin drop, which led local officials to examine the legality of such fundraisers, which have traditionally been used by the Legion, youth league and fire companies.
Hoagland said the league is working on coin drops as well. “It’s not that they are illegal; it’s that you need Department of Transportation permission, and they do not like to give that permission,” he said, noting the league is working through state Sen. Betty Little’s offices to try and obtain the permission. He hopes to know the outcome before the Feb. 9 meeting.
Still, the league is already taking steps to cope with the potential loss of the coin-drop revenue and some new expenses.
For the first time, the league will require that families take part in fundraising, specifically selling tickets for a big raffle that will include a $750 cash prize or lawn furniture for the first- and second-place winners and $200 for third place.
“We have done the raffle in the past, but we have never actually required fundraising as other local youth leagues do,” Hoagland said. “Now we just have to do that.”
Hoagland said the league may have to do away with the $40 per-family cap that has been in place and may have to raise its fee from the $25 charged in the past. For that fee, the youths involved get their hat and shirt, as well as health insurance for any injuries that happen while involved in league activities. The fee also pays for liability insurance.
“If we can keep it at $25 and keep the family cap,” that would be great,” he said.
In addition, Hoagland said, the league spends about $2,000 on baseball and softballs, pays its umpires, and buys supplies for upkeep of the town fields. Football equipment upkeep and replacement is $2,000 every year, and the league pays $1,500 for insurance. “Everything adds up,” said Hoagland, who added that
the league will need to spend about $2,000 to replace its portable fences, which are nearly a decade old.
“We do have the concession stands, which bring in a few hundred dollars, and we have done a calendar for football in the past, but that was way down last year,” he said. Hoagland says the league also needs to budget for allowing children whose families simply cannot afford the fee to be able to participate. “We have a lot of low-income kids here. We have never turned anyone away, and we never will.”
The league also sponsors a Middle League for ages 13 to 15 and has travel teams, but the travel teams do their own fundraising.
There are sponsors who come through annually, Hoagland said. “The team sponsors do a great job, and local businesses are really supportive,” he said. “Aubuchon Hardware is always there, and Lake Champlain Coal has always gone above and beyond.”