According to St. Francis Athletic Director, Bob Krimmel, the old DeGol field scoreboard had been held together by a thread and prayer. Now, if you go to the St. Francis football game this weekend, you'll be looking at a brand new scoreboard, just one of the major projects made possible by an innovative and elite fundraising arm of the Stokes Club called Red Flash Futures.
"We needed a bold strategy for fundraising," said Krimmel, "we needed to change, and target what we do in order to provide the best possible opportunities for our student-athletes."
The Red Flash Futures program was created to generate revenue through various membership levels (beginning at $1,000) specifically for capital and staffing improvements. In just over a year, the RFF has raised about $300,000, with additional monies promised by alumni and corporate donors.
The first goal met by the program, as outlined in the Athletic Strategic Plan, was to hire strength and conditioning coach, Jesse Weber, who helped design and plan the new weight room and training program. The men's basketball locker room has been renovated, and designs have been completed for improvements to the women's basketball locker room, Stokes Center weight room and offices, softball and soccer fields. Even more plans are in the works.
Krimmel has been moved by the collaborative effort between the Athletic Department administration, the Stokes Club and University President, Father Gabriel Zeis.
"It's exciting, and we're humbled by the support we've received financially and spiritually; those who say we're with you; we're a school based on faith and that carries us every day as we go forward with this journey."
The Red Flash Futures is appropriately named, as the program is catapulting St. Francis sports to the next level, and making the Flash one of the premier programs in the Northeast Conference. It's hard to put a price tag on what the staffing and facilities improvements will mean for recruitment and retention of student-athletes.
Even more intangible may be the impact on the athletes' personal journeys on-campus and in the community.
"Long-term, our hope is that our student-athletes who come here will have the best opportunities to have a successful athletic experience," said Krimmel. "And that experience will go hand-in-hand with their academic and spiritual experiences at St. Francis."
There are many options for student-athletes today, within the Northeast Conference and the Mid-Atlantic States; it's important for the university in Loretto to remain competitive.
Krimmel compares the strategic process of creating and prioritizing athletic projects to developing a family budget. It's a tough job, but one that's necessary for athletes today and in the future.
"We're pleased," he said, "but we're constantly looking down the road at things we have to do and where we need to go. The process has been met with great hope and great excitement with Father Gabe's vision. It's so exciting to be part of the Red Flash Family."
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.