This past weekend, I had the privilege of helping out with a golf tournament fundraiser that marked its 15th anniversary of supporting activity in Foresthill. It started as an event to help sustain the sled dog races held there off-and-on over the years. Because of the uncertainty of the races, the sponsors of the tournament eventually turned their benevolence to the local high school, and specifically the Wildfires’ football team. These types of fundraisers are nothing new, but the significance of them has changed a bit. Most are aware this state, and almost all others, is having financial problems. Since about 50 percent of Sacramento’s budget goes to fund our public schools the tightening of government’s purse strings tend to hit them the hardest. Of course, that filters down to extracurricular activities like prep sports, which is probably the single biggest link the schools have with the community. Auburn Journal sports reporter Sara Seyydin has been doing some research into this issue as to just how school district’s are going to keep their athletes on the fields of play. She recently told me she has yet to find anyone that has discovered a solution. After all, the tax money being spent on the schools is intended to be for education, not athletics, or other ancillary activities. Still schools, as well as the community, realize the sports that link the two can be a big part of education – even if only serving as motivation to go to school. Fortunately, our academic institutions require a certain level of achievement in the classroom to participate in interscholastic activity, so the truly inspired athlete has to offer more than just his or her presence. Unlike professional and collegiate sports, prep sports do not generate a lot of money on their own. A $2-$5 ticket at the gate doesn’t bring in a great deal of revenue. Yes, booster clubs and snack bars help, but they require dedicated volunteers. And anyone who has taken on the task of running a sporting event, a fundraiser, or support group knows how much work is involved. The lack of volunteers in many cases isn’t so much because of apathy, but because of time constraints. The ACLU has also filed a lawsuit that prevents schools from charging a fee for students to participate in athletics. In cases where parents can’t afford such fees the suit makes sense. But when a program’s existence is threatened it means the opportunity it presents could be lost indefinitely. Many parents and members of the community have stepped up with donations to keep intact the bond that exists with schools, but with a sagging economy that kind of generosity can flag. And rising energy costs continue to take a big bite out of program budgets for transportation, lighting, etc. I do believe a solution can be found. After all, from these programs come the collegiate and professional athletes of the future. And let’s not forget the millions who stayed in school and went on to become professionals in something other than sports.