Everybody in Altus knows all about the Altus High School football team.
The team’s run to the state championship last season was well chronicled with a large portion of the community backing them every step of the way.
But how many people know about those behind the scenes? How many people know where the money came from to purchase the Bulldog’s championship rings after they defeated Collinsville 31-28 in the 5A State Championship game?
Although the 12th Man Club has been around for a long time and many know if its existence, it had taken on a lesser role for the football program prior to the 2014 season.
During the 2014 season, the club was revitalized and it came back strong.
After the Bulldogs’ successful championship run during the 2015 season, the 12th Man Club began holding fundraising events and meeting with parents and donors in the community to raise the $40,000 needed to purchase rings for every player, coach and trainer at no cost to the individuals.
An auction was held that sold merchandise such as a football and jersey signed by former Bulldog and Pittsburgh Steeler legend Jason Gildon, University of Oaklahoma versus University of Texas basketball tickets and footballs used in the championship game, among other items.
Before it was all said and done, every penny of the $40,000 needed was raised for the championship rings.
Not only did they raise the necessary money for the football team’s rings, but they were also able to donate the remaining funds to the swim team’s championship ring fund and to pay for expenses when the football team and swim team were honored at the state Capitol by state Sen. Mike Schulz (R-Altus) and state Rep. Charles Ortega (R-Altus).
But the 12th Man Club has contributed more to the team than just fundraising for championship rings, they also support the team by painting the football field, paying for meals for the players, coaches and trainers, as well as organizing and completing other projects as needed.
The primary goal is to ensure the football program has all the support it needs off the field to achieve success on the field.
Each year, the club works closely with the coaching staff and athletic department staff to ascertain the needs of the program with the goal of raising the funds to provide for each need.
“I was drawn to the organization from the very beginning,” said 12th Man Club Vice President Brian Bush. “I know how important our local athletic programs are to the sense of community we enjoy here in Altus. As a graduate of Altus High School, I can recall firsthand what it meant for the community to be supportive and engaged in the programs and teams at our high school, and as a parent of children in Altus Public Schools, I believe strongly in doing everything I can to show our teachers, coaches, and staff that we are in this together.”
Bush is just one of seven people who make up the board of directors for the club.
Kevin Marple serves as the club’s president, Bush as the vice president, Diane Beach as the treasurer, Solveig Feller as the secretary and Jennifer Wilson, Deanna Jones and David Welch serve as the club’s directors.
The group also enjoys support from dozens of volunteers who help to make sure the group can accomplish its goals year after year.
Financial constraints are proving to become a challenge more and more for school districts and the club believes this is one way to help overcome those challenges
“Raising funds for the state championship rings was one of our biggest achievements,” Bush said. “But our greatest achievement would have to be the lifelong relationships we have been able to foster with the students and their families. Through the football banquets and the Adopt-a-Bulldog program, we are able to get to know these students on a personal level, provide an extra level of support and make sure they know there is an entire community behind them no matter what. Whether they win or lose, these young people represent our community with pride and they remind us all of what is in the DNA of our community, what is best about what is inside of all of us and what can happen when one is willing to commit something larger than themselves and do the work necessary to achieve their dreams.”
The 12th Man Club is currently in the midst of their membership drive for those who are interested in supporting the mission.
They offer membership levels of $250, $500, $1000 and $2000-plus, with each level offering various benefits. Such benefits include hats, shirts, memorabilia, season tickets and much more.
The club is organized as a nonprofit, so any donations made are tax deductible.
The club is currently hosting a fundraiser until July 31. For $40, anybody interested can order a box of Cunningham Peaches with all profits going to support the 12th Man Club.
For more information, reach out to a club member or visit facebook.com/altusok12thmanclub.
Reach Ryan lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.