'Friends of Education' honored

Deanna Bonn
Times-Gazette

The USD 490 Board of Education recently recognized the I Can Read volunteers and El Dorado Sports Foundation as this year’s Friends of Education.

Staci Rickard, left, I Can Read Volunteer Coordinator, Heather Nichols, center, USD 490 BOE President, Trent Schell, right, ESF Chair

The I Can Read Volunteers were nominated in the School Volunteer category. Under the lead of Staci Rickard, USD 490’s volunteer coordinator, this group has gone above and beyond to continue to provide support for struggling second grade readers.

“Our volunteers have hearts of gold,” Rickard said. “Many have arrived early or stayed longer to help set up and tear down.”

Several of these volunteers have taken on two students, instead of just one, to ensure all students who needed additional support were matched with a volunteer. They have braved windy and chilly weather to travel through the outdoor story walks with students. Some even brought extra coats or blankets for students who did not have weather-appropriate clothing for the cooler days.

The El Dorado Sports Foundation (ESF) was nominated as a Community/Civic Organization for their contributions to the USD 490 athletic programs since their inception in 2011. Trent Schell, Brad Clites and Rob Vinson began the foundation to provide equipment, uniforms, and other items that would help El Dorado attract coaches and participants, and allow them to be competitive on the courts and fields.

To date, they have raised more than $225,000 that they have put towards improvements such as pads for the football blocking sleds, an indoor pitching mound for baseball, new uniforms, a new timing system for the swim team, a rebounding machine for basketball, travel bags, jackets and practice equipment for softball, new pole vault poles for track, an end zone camera, and a pitching machine.

Some of their larger-scale contributions include partnering with the district for the new Activity Bus, improving the weight room, and purchasing a new center scoreboard, end scoreboard, and digital score table. The Activity Bus was kitted out with a graphic wrap, bucket seating, under glow lighting, USB ports, overhead storage, and air shocks so athletes and activity participants could travel in comfort to competitions. ESF spent more than $50,000 on new weights and equipment to update the weight room, and more than $50,000 on the new scoreboards and score table.

“We are most proud of what we have done in the weight room,” Schell said. “All men’s and women’s teams can improve their performance by what they do in there.”

ESF uses a membership system where donors get passes to all EHS and EMS events as well as hats and other apparel. Most members make a significant financial investment of $750-$1,500 each year, knowing that making notable improvements takes significant financial resources.

The ESF board works with the District Athletic/Activities Director to identify needs and decide where to prioritize improvements.