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Extracurricular Fees Can Be Exorbitant: These Parents Want to Help

Extracurricular Fees Can Be Exorbitant: These Parents Want to Help

By invitation, I joined the recent board meeting of Patrons and Players. Patrons and Players provides funding for kids who need help with fees associated with extracurricular activities. I sat down to a table filled with volleyball and gymnastics moms, band and track dads, and one proud grandmother who shared their passion for helping others get the same experiences. I was met with smiles all around the table, paired with enthusiasm and genuineness. Their heart for getting kids with financial need access to extracurricular activities was evident.

The Backstory Behind Patrons and Players

It started with helping out a kid here and there. Then the group realized there was a disconnect between people who have a need and those who can fill a need. Patrons and Players officially started in early 2019. They collected money from patrons who were eager to be part of getting players off the sidelines. Right as they gained traction, though, the pandemic hit, and all
activities stopped.

When everything started back up again, the need for help with fees was even greater because of the financial hit so many families suffered. Patrons and Players had collected a nest egg during that time and were ready to hit the ground running to help those on the margins. Since 2021, Patrons and Players has funded 115 scholarships. The average scholarship is $180. Activities funded include sports, music, art, karate, dance, and a camp for kids in a homeless shelter. All donated funds go directly to players. Students of Huntsville City Schools with financial need fill out an application to be considered.

The Problem

When I asked the group, “When did you first realize that Patrons and Players needed to happen?” it was Erin Cobb who spoke up. The general consensus was that Erin came up with the original concept for the group, and was the one responsible for drawing together board members. She told a story about a child who went to an open wrestling tryout, where the coach declared he could be very good. When the child told his grandmother about the fee, though, his words were, “It’s $300. Grandma, I know you don’t have $300. I don’t have to be a wrestler.”

Erin continued, “That’s the day I went on Facebook with a rant: We have to do SOMETHING.” Patrons and Players wants to affect change to make things fair and equal, to give everyone a fair shot. Kids need to experience the same things outside of school as their peers, they explained.

The self-proclaimed “Mimi” of the group, Leslie Franklin, whose kids were involved in the arts, dance, musical theater, and band, relayed that high fees prevent a lot of kids from being able to participate. Leslie explained that while some kids get elaborate trips (sometimes even to Europe), others are left behind because they are unable to pay. Patrons and Players’ perspective is to make sure more kids can go and have those opportunities, and that no kids are held back.

While some extracurricular programs say that don’t explicitly require fees, it still affects the quality of the program they’re able to offer. Brent Cobb, a member of his booster club for track, said he sees up close how much money it costs to run a team. He explained that the fees you pay go into your program, paying for new equipment, an additional coach, tournaments, buses, and uniforms. “It’s one thing to say that everyone who wants to play can play. But it’s quite another to say we need that quality to be more on par. We’re trying to bring more balance to that.”

Patrons and Players: It’s Personal

These board members are not removed from the community they serve. They build relationships with coaches, the Boys and Girls club, and have appointed people at Huntsville middle and high schools to spread the word about this resource. Board member and volleyball coach Jennifer Grant explains that these folks interact with kids daily. They see the need, see the kids and their potential, their dreams. Besides their outreach efforts, though, they each have personal experiences with the value extracurriculars provide. They all shared words describing their kids’ personal gains from participating in sports, art, and music: Confidence, teamwork, personal responsibility, skills, and organization.

Board member Tesha Crump described how some kids come from unfortunate situations and they need an outlet. As the new parent coordinator at her elementary school, after school program site director, and PTA secretary, she experiences firsthand the joy that comes from helping a child and the ease it brings to parents. She explained the trickle-down effect of building a bridge of communication between the school, kids, coach, and parents, affecting even interpersonal relationships within home.

Tesha shared her joy of bringing hope to families with kids who may not be able to experience what else is out there. She has seen the effect of a child moving from just surviving each day, to setting and reaching goals once they know that others are supporting them. Through access to extracurriculars, kids see their potential, challenge themselves, and are no longer merely surviving. They’ve found their success, what they’re good at, and what makes them happy.

a young girl in a gymnastic unitard stands outside with her hand on her hip
No player should be left on the sidelines based on financial need.

Board member Kyle Goldman’s kids are in sports, band, and extracurriculars. He explained that kids are introduced to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) through school and extracurricular activities. Kyle shared that his second child is autistic and doesn’t get a lot of interaction. So Kyle has been working with a boy scout troop to explore what it would look like for his son to be involved with the troop. For his son, Kyle said, it’d be an amazing opportunity. This led Kyle to wonder how many people are out there who think extracurriculars are not even something they can do, that it’s not something that’s available. To Kyle, one of most important aspects of Patrons and Players is giving folks a shot at something they didn’t even think was attainable before.

Board member Kevin Winn is in the process of raising six kids, all of whom were in band. But the fees for band? They’re hundreds of dollars per child. “And they’re due two weeks before Christmas!” he lamented. One of his kids is now in the University of Alabama Million Dollar Band, thanks to her experience in high school. This, he explained, is what they’re trying to provide for those with financial need.

While Faith Presbyterian Church has made it easy for Patrons and Players to give all donated funds to pay fees for players, there is no requirement of association with the church or any faith affiliation. The group truly aims to not leave any kid feeling excluded.

Call for Patrons

Patrons and Players raises funding for scholarships given to Huntsville city school students based on financial need. So far the group has been able to meet each need. But their fund is dwindling and they’re ready now for more patrons. Click here for more information.

“We believe that no player should be left on the sidelines based on financial need, and we strive to find patrons who are as passionate as we are that all students deserve a chance to play.”


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