14 years in, Friends of Raider Softball nears goal

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — Friends of Raider Softball is unique from other sporting support groups.

For one, many of the members do not have girls playing softball anymore.

Also, the nonprofit organization works with, but is completely independent of, the Southwest Dubois County School Corporation.

Friends of Raider Softball started 14 years ago, by people who had children in the Huntingburg Girls Softball League.

“We were following our kids through the softball years,” co-organizer Jeff Bounds said. “I guess we got matched up because we were at the softball field.”

They were always at the softball field at Huntingburg City Park with their kids. And so were the high school varsity and junior varsity teams. The one field was being used a lot.

“Not only was there the 12 [city] softball teams playing on the one field, we had five traveling softball teams,” co-organizer Tim Wehr said. “And there was the high school varsity and junior varsity teams using the field, too.”

As far as schedules, the high school team ranked above the girls league.

“Our league could only play when the varsity and JV teams weren’t. They had priority in practices, the priority in games,” Bounds said. “If they had a game that rained out, they’d just pick a night and reschedule it. And if we had anything scheduled in the Huntingburg Softball League, we just had to step aside.”

That meant the parents had to be contacted to tell them that the two or three games for that evening were canceled. Those games had to be rescheduled, and everyone involved had to be contacted when the new dates were set.

“Talk about a scheduling nightmare,” Wehr said.

The parents decided that the high school teams needed their own field.

“There was just too much activity on that field,” Bounds said. “Imagine all the sets of cleats that were tearing up that field every night for months and months. You could never get the field to look good because the grass was always torn up. It was a constant effort because there was just too much activity on the field.”

So in 2005, they formed an organization to help the softball teams. Friends of Raider Softball was born.

The group operates differently than a booster club in that funding raised is carried over for years, instead of the being depleted each season.

“Very seldom does a booster club have any extra money that’s outside of that one season’s activities and expenditures,” Bounds said. “But we always had a big goal.”

As the years went on, many of the parents involved had children who had already graduated or dropped out of softball. But yet, the parents dedicated themselves to the group.

“The people who, by every definition, had every reason to leave, didn’t,” Bounds said. “We had a long-term goals that needed people to stay in leadership roles for a long period of time.”

They raised money through dine and dances, which they don’t do anymore; pork chop dinners in the spring, which continue today; and the food booth they have at the Holland Fest and Herbstfest.

The group’s first goal was to get a new field for the high school teams. And the timing couldn’t have been better. The school district started a group comprised of citizens who evaluated what schools needed. The group recommended that the high school go through some major renovations, and a softball field was included in the renovations.

When it came time to ask the voters via referendum to allow for the financing of the renovations, Friends of Raider Softball was active in getting the word out to citizens, encouraging them to support the plans.

“We’d been raising money since 2005. This was 2010.” Bounds said, “We were able to use some of the funds to fund a political action committee that bought yard signs, flyers that we gave out at games.”

The voters approved the referendum and the designs were created. But the softball field’s design was very basic, Bounds said.

“It was fencing, a couple dugouts, the field’s surface,” he said.

Friends of Raider Softball stepped in and covered the costs to have more features at the field. Some of those included a designed entryway with the words “Southridge” across the top, metal gates at the entrance, concession equipment, the batting cages, the outfield fence, bases, a sound system for the press box, the ticket box and other features.

The field was completed in 2012 and opened for play in 2013.

Now that the high school teams have their own field, the softball field at city park is now open for the girls softball league. “The field is a lot easier to maintain, because there is less activity on it,” Bounds said. “And they don’t have to wait until high school is done.”

Once the goal of building a high school field was completed, Friends of Raider Softball started working on a second goal: establishing an endowment for the field’s maintenance through the Dubois County Community Foundation.

“We wanted to make [it so] that the field always had the money needed to be maintained,” Bounds said.

Organizers are expecting to complete that goal after this weekend’s Herbstfest. “If the rain stays away, we will finish that,” Wehr said.

What comes next is not yet known.

“We do have some board members who want to move on to other things,” Bounds said. “After the goal is met, we’re going to convene again to decide if we’ll work toward another goal, or if this is the end (of the group).”

In the meantime, Friends of Raider Softball can be found at its Herbstfest booth this weekend, selling sandwiches, chicken wings, other meats, fries and desserts. People can also talk to organizers at the booth about supporting or becoming involved with the group. The organization also has a Facebook page.




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