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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 14, 2011

Knodler brothers break new ground
as they hike, bike, and paddle to raise funds for school sports

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — A pair of  student athletes is leading this year’s charge to fund freshman sports.

The Knodler brothers — Marcus and Brian — kicked off fund-raising with their own Lake George Challenge on Memorial Day weekend. Marcus was in ninth-grade at Guilderland High School and Brian was in seventh grade at Farnsworth Middle School. Both boys wrestle and play lacrosse and football.

For their self-styled Lake George triathlon, they hiked, biked, and kayaked, raising $1,500 through pledges. The brothers presented a check to the school district on Tuesday morning.

“It costs approximately $500 to fund a player in sports,” the Knodler brothers wrote in a letter to the Enterprise editor in May, “so we are hoping to raise as much as we can to help keep these programs alive.”

The Knodler family moved to Guilderland in recent years, said Emilio Genzano, a school board member who has spearheaded fund-raising for sports. “The boys went to a school that didn’t have the opportunities we have here. When they saw that disappearing, they stepped in and wanted to help,” he said.

Genzano said it is good to involve students in solving problems.  “If half of the kids did what the Knodler brothers did,” he said, “we’d be in great shape.”

Genzano went on, “People are going to argue about taxes until you’re blue in the face, but that won’t help activities for the kids.”

Fund-raising ahead

“We only need to raise $24,000 this year,” said Genzano, who heads the Friends of Guilderland Athletics, known as FOGA.

The group was formed last year when the budget cut funds for all freshman sports and two repeat sports — indoor track and fall cheerleading. “Last year, we had to raise over $60,000. We’ve made progress,” said Genzano this week.

This spring, the district faced a $4 million budget gap and hosted two community forums attended by hundreds of residents who spoke, in small groups, about what they valued and what should be cut. In April, as the board was poised to adopt an $89 million proposal, Genzano made the only recommendation that a majority of the board agreed upon — adding back half the funding for freshman sports. The indoor track athletes had already made their case to the board and that sport along with fall cheerleading was fully funded.

Genzano told the board in April that funding two sports — fall cheerleading and indoor track 100 percent — was unfair to the others and what had been done as a community the year before. The restored funding for those two sports totaled $19,970.

Funding the other sports — freshmen football and boys’ and girls’ soccer in the fall; boys’ and girls’ basketball in the winter; and boys’ lacrosse, baseball, and softball in the spring — cost roughly $48,000.

With half of that paid by the district, that left the other half to be raised by the community. “We have a similar rolling deadline for each sport like last year,” said Genzano this week. Booster groups for the various sports are involved again. During the budget discussion this spring, some of the sports boosters complained they were tired of the fund-raising, but Genzano said this week, “I was very impressed how people jumped in. They’re very enthusiastic.”

Asked if this will be something FOGA does every year to keep freshman sports at Guilderland, Genzano said, “It’s not a permanent thing. I think it’s a necessary evil to maintain what we have.”

He said that, if other districts, also facing budget constraints, cut freshman sports, that would put an end to the Guilderland program. “We want to be sure there are people to play against,” said Genzano. “So far, the majority still has freshman sports.”

Wayne Bertrand, the district’s athletic director, said earlier that, among the Suburban Council schools, only Averill Park and Columbia were cutting freshmen teams.

Last year, a community picnic was FOGA’s biggest fund-raising event. This year, FOGA is working with the Guilderland Letterman Association — a group made up of alumni and alumnae that provide college scholarships for athletes. A golf outing at the Orchard Creek Golf Club on Aug. 5 will be the main fund-raising event for FOGA.

“We’ll combine efforts so as not to tax the community,” said Genzano.

He went on, “It’s important to think of this as a new model to look at how the district will fund non-academic functions in the future. It gives the community a chance to respond. If we can do it with sports, why can’t we do it with clubs that help the whole child? That’s my vision.”

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