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School district scholarship fund grows

Several non-profit fundraising affiliates of the school district are seeing high-dollar donations and a raised profile, taken by school board members as signs of increasing community support for education.

Donations to the North Wasco County School District Scholarship Foundation are coming in at a strong clip, and scholarship awards, around $100,000 this year, will increase significantly next year, said foundation President Tom Peachey.

Peachey said when he joined the foundation 30 years ago, it had several hundred thousand dollars to work with. Now, with several new contributions in the works, the total value of the fund should reach $2.6 million, he said.

The scholarship foundation is one of several entities housed under the non-profit umbrella of the district’s education foundation.

The education foundation itself, with a bank account of $37,000, recently awarded three small grants to classrooms, including paying for 20 copies of a beginning dictionary, spending $1,000 toward bringing well-known youth author Sherman Alexie to town, and $500 for teaching students to be good stewards of the environment.

The scholarship fund, which already had $1.5 million to its name, recently learned it would receive $100,000 from the Gerald Smith Trust, and $200,000 from the John Andres Scholarship.

Another family that regularly donates to the scholarship foundation has added a $30,000 gift and a $750,000 insurance policy. There is also a future commitment for further donation from these individ-uals’ estate planning. They have asked that the gift not be identified in their name at this time, Peachey said.

“We never fail to be awed at the great generosity of this community and its commitment to investing in our aspiring youth,” Peachey said.

A new arrival formed two years ago, The Dalles High School Booster Club, has already raised $40,000, and spent about $20,000 buying uniforms for teams and making improvements to softball and baseball fields, said Lori Bonham, a founder of the club with her husband, Daniel Bonham. The booster club just began a significant fundraiser, hoping to sell up to 2,000 $50 raffle tickets to win a $15,000 Bullfrog hot tub with stereo. The hot tub is donated by Bonham’s business, Maupin’s Stoves & Spas, and he has agreed to deliver the hot tub to any winner within the contiguous United States.

If all tickets sold, that would bring in $100,000.

LeAnn Ellett is president of the education foundation, which she said is developing a higher profile. “I think it’s exciting to get our name out there and let people know that they can contribute to this,” she said.

The education foundation hopes to hire a grant writer soon, through a contribution of $15,000 per year for three years from the scholarship foundation.

It will also be sending out an appeal letter next month.

Several entities now fall under the education foundation’s umbrella. They include the scholarship foundation, the booster club, The Dalles School District Archive Museum, The Dalles Sister Cities Association, and the newly revitalized The Dalles High School Alumni Association.

As the umbrella organization, the education foundation has members of the other entities on its board. A benefit of that, said Lori Bonham, is that the various fundraising entities can coordinate their appeals so they are not stepping on each other’s toes. Daniel Bonham said he helped found the booster club because “the kids deserve more exposure. For the majority of these kids this will be the pinnacle of their athletic career. The other half of it too, I don’t think the burden of fundraising should fall to the varsity coaches, as it has for years.”

He said, “Realistically, it’s just about trying to enhance the experience for the kids that are involved.” And statistics show that kids who are involved in extra-curricular activities do well academically, he said.

Lori Bonham said her two children – a daughter who graduated last year and a sophomore son – are both three-sport athletes. She herself attended The Dalles High School.

“I’m a parent. I’m an alumni and just saw that basic fundamental needs were not being met for our students,” she said of her decision to found the booster club. “They were going and competing against students that had better funding, better equipment, better fields. Our dream was to outfit our teams with the same advantages our opponents had.”

They have paid for new customized Riverhawk windscreens on both the baseball and softball fields, backstop pads for softball, and on-deck circles for baseball.

Lori Bonham said having the various groups meet under the umbrella of the education foundation has been a plus. “Our goals are definitely in alignment.

“What we want is the best for the kids. It opens up the dialogue so we’re not competing with one another at the same time. We can actually help promote one another by promoting each other’s fundraising events.”

Those interested in volunteering for the booster club can reach out at thedallesboosterclub.com, or find them on Facebook at The Dalles Booster Club.

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