Most leagues have gotten away from naming a Most Valuable Player. The title is a bit ambiguous. Most leagues now have a Player of the Year. True, semantics are involved and both titles are ambiguous, but, if Coach Damon Baldwin had to name a Most Valuable Player in the past three Ramona High School football lift-a-thons, the award would be uncontested.
Derek Harlan has been the most valuable lifter and fundraiser and in the 2010 Lift-A-Thon he outdid himself. When Derek was in eighth grade, the incoming freshmen at Olive Pierce Middle School were not involved in the fundraiser, so his first chance to earn a spirit pack came at the end of his frosh year. Harlan took the first prize and brought in a school record $1,800 and earned a Best Buy gift certificate.
Because the prizes got better for being the best fundraiser, the competition got stiffer, so Derek brought in $2,800 in 2009 to earn all of the incentives and another gift card and two season tickets to Bulldog football games.
This year Derek went high tech. He not only sent out letters and hit up the usual suspects who are his father’s clients, he put on a massive e-mail media blitz. The results? Derek turned in $6,500 for the 2010 Lift-A-Thon. For his efforts Derek will get a spirit pack (two Nike Tech Dri-fit tees, Nike Dri-fit shorts, a Nike Tenacity practice jersey, a Nike PRO Combat Girdle, black game socks, mouth piece, helmet stickers and screw in cleats), transportation to games, a $100 Nike gift card, an I-Pod Touch 8MB and a Play Station 3, $500 and two sideline passes for his parents, Jim and Joann.
Derek is a special student/athlete in many ways. At age 3, he was diagnosed with diabetes and has been insulin dependent ever since. He has to watch his diet and blood sugar to practice and play football. He has been going to Ramona Fitness Center owner/trainer Peter San Nicolas along with the weight training program at RHS to improve his size, speed and stamina.
At times during games, he has to eat one of his mother’s famous cookies to get his blood sugar on track. One time he had to take an insulin shot at halftime. After the game a well-meaning fan went to his coach and said that a player was taking some kind of a shot during the halftime break. After the coach jokingly said that his halftime pep talks drove the kid to shoot up, the coach explained that Derek had to take an insulin shot.
Derek was one of approximately 190 student/athletes participating in the 2010 Lift-A-Thon. As the economy gets worse and cuts are made in the athletic budget, the need for fundraisers gets greater. Most districts provide transportation for their athletes. Ramona does not. The budget does not cover the basic necessities it takes to run an adequate football program and Damon Baldwin is not interested in running an adequate program. He runs a first class program and to do that takes money. So Baldwin runs a fundraiser that has become a tradition. The athletes actually want to participate in the Lift-A-Thon and show the community the fruits of the RHS weight training program and earn prizes while doing so.
Incoming frosh players were added two years ago and this year the lads at OPMS raised $20,319.08. Who donated the eight cents? Probably Marc Boykins and Jerry Patenaude combined on the donation. All of the money raised by the frosh will be spent on the frosh. They will be getting new game uniforms as a starter.
The RHS gym was packed as each student/athlete who participated attempted to show off his max in the bench press. Luke Papps and Preston Johnson followed the lead of Justin Godes last season and benched over 400 pounds. Trea Rodriguez set a frosh record by benching 190 pounds.
In all, over $60,000 was raised as a result of pumping iron. All of it will be spent this coming season. Along with transportation, equipment replacement, pre and post game snacks, awards, PBJ sandwiches during Hell Week and water, Ramona’s football program has totally rebuilt the weight room and upgraded the equipment in the weight room. That room is used by all sports, Bulldog Connect and PE classes. Ramona also has a state of the art filming crew that films home games and scouts opponents and is used to make hi-light videos to send to college recruiters.
Derek Harlan has lifted in his last Lift-A-Thon. A new MVP will be crowned next May. An incoming freshman will have four shots at beating the $11,100 plus that Derek has raised in three years. I hope that Boykins and Patenaude will put in their eight cents again.