Varsity Letter

When liquor fuels a fundraiser, what's the cost?

(The Washington Post)
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By Preston Williams
Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's not often that Varsity writes about the same school two weeks in a row, but we made an unsettling and disappointing discovery in researching last week's column about ballboys for the Arundel High football team and felt compelled to share.

A link on Arundel's Web site, accessed off the football team page, advertised the school's annual football bull roast. The $35-per-person fundraiser, held Saturday at Gambrills Athletic Hall, was a benefit for the Arundel football program.

No problem there. Even teams as successful as the Wildcats need to hustle a buck. But see if anything in the school Web site's description of the event causes your eyebrows to involuntarily furrow:

All you can eat beef and turkey, green beans, potatoes and dessert. All you can drink Beer and soda included. You may BYOB (bring your own bottle) if you'd like.

The ad goes on to mention a "liquor wheel" as one of the event's featured attractions, along with a DJ, silent auction of NFL items, a cash wheel, 50/50 drawing and door prizes.

So let's get this straight: A high school sports program is trying to raise money by hosting an event marinated in alcohol and is trumpeting said event on its school Web site?

Mixed message, anyone? What next, using driver's ed cars to ferry the tipsy merrymakers home?

Look, this is no broadside at Arundel, and a lot of well-meaning people probably poured long hours into planning and running the event with no intention of it coming across as a "Come get drunk and help our kids" affair. Other than being on the school Web site, the ad is not geared toward teens, although it did not specify a minimum age to attend. The event was not on school property, and when the announcer plugged the bull roast over the public address system during Arundel's home game Oct. 9 against Glen Burnie, there was no mention of alcohol.

All that semi-restraint is duly noted. But that doesn't excuse conducting such an event in the first place, let alone plugging it on a school Web site. Drain the booze from the evening and what do you have? An abundance of chow. Music and dancing. Games of chance. A community gathering of citizens willing to spend their Saturday night, and their money, supporting the football program. A good cause and, probably, a good time.

So, then, why the "all you can drink Beer" (note the capitalization) and BYOB shout-out? Would fewer community members support the cause if this were a high school fundraiser that served soda and iced tea (or, playing off the football theme, Gatorade) instead of beer and liquor? If not, then limit the beverage choices to soft drinks. And if it does take alcohol to lure the locals to support the program, how sad. How very sad.

Arundel football coach Chuck Markiewicz said that other area schools conduct similar fundraisers and that his program's event has taken place for more than 10 years without complaint. He estimates that there were 100 or more supporters on hand Saturday, including many former players.

"Kids aren't allowed. I don't understand how it's inappropriate," Markiewicz said. "Everybody there is 21 or older. The PC police are out again. We're trying to raise money to run a football program. Mixed message? I don't know what to tell you."


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