Building for Champions’

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by Zach Jevne/Staff Writer

Reconnecting with former Simpson College athletes is the first step in establishing a successful fundraising program for the athletic department.

On Feb. 5 Simpson hosted a fundraiser at Des Moines Golf and Country Club titled “Building for Champions.” Over 100 former letter winners and supporters of Simpson were scheduled to attend, with hopes of gaining support for several different projects.

“I have been sharing a vision of where we’re going athletically,” Athletic Director John Sirianni said. “This is an initial gathering of alumni to look for ways to support Simpson athletics.”

The ball got rolling for this fundraiser when a group of alumni got together to focus on helping Simpson athletics. They call themselves the “Yacht Club.” Their goal is to get people back involved, raise money and look to the future, according to Sirianni.

“This a brand-new fundraiser,” NCAA Compliance Coordinator Bob Nutgrass said. “They’re trying to make it upscale, and encourage people to support the department.”

The Building for Champions fundraiser planned to feature Simpson alumni giving testimonials about their athletic experience. Comedian Willie Farrell was also scheduled to perform.

The plan is to finish the Buxton Stadium project. That includes completing the fencing around the stadium, a new ticket booth at the north end and enclosing the east bleachers. A new ticket booth at the south end was put in this summer.

“This project will enhance the look and feel of our stadium, while generating excitement for the athletic program,” Athletics Communication Director Bryan Geelan said. “With its central location on campus, Buxton Stadium is a highly visible venue that represents the Simpson community.”

Simpson researched who might be the best possible candidates to attend this fundraiser, in order to maximize potential contributions. “The athletic department has had to get permission from the development people, so they’re not going back to the same people who may have just donated,” Nutgrass said. “We want to make sure we are targeting other alumni and donors that maybe haven’t been aware or had the opportunity to donate in the past.”

Sirianni’s message to potential donors is that the athletic department is comprised of five basic pillars: quality coaches, outstanding student-athletes, adequate budgets, quality facilities and a public relations team to tell the story.

“People make programs,” Sirianni said. “Coaches must recruit and retain athletes, and our facilities must stay comparable with our competition. We must have a public relations program to promote the same message to the community. All five pillars must blend together.”

Having an appropriate budget and keeping fundraising goals reasonable is also important, Sirianni said.

The athletic department hopes it will reach a number of new people, while continuing to build and develop meaningful, lifelong relationships with former Simpson student-athletes and supporters of the program.”The biggest thing for this first event is to reconnect with former athletes and supporters,” Sirianni said. “We hope this is one of many gatherings that promotes reconnection.”