By Chesley Oxendine
Friday night’s community response to a swim team fundraiser was “wonderful” for Katrina White, who helped organize and run the event.
“All of us support the other sports that go on here,” White said. “It’s nice to see swimmers get some support too.”
Her favorite part was watching the swim team kids assist customers, ferrying food to cars and money back to the organizers while calling out orders, she said.
“I really like that these kids come out and earn the money used to benefit them,” White said.
The Fort Gibson High School swim team served over 270 pounds of meat alongside bags of chips, sodas and cookies to customers driving through the high school parking lot.
Even after costs, thanks to donations from parents and the larger community, the Tigers earned over $1,950, said Head Coach Connie Dean.
“This community is great,” Dean said. “They’re right there support you no matter what. That’s the great thing about living in a small town.”
The money earned goes toward transportation to swim meets, entry fees, traveling uniforms, and other necessities for the team, Dean said, the costs for which can approach $6,000 to $7,000.
“This is one of our biggest fundraisers,” the swim coach said. “The money just goes toward the function of the team.”
While it may be one of their bigger efforts, the drive through barbecue event certainly wasn’t their only one, Dean said.
“We’re going to be doing some family fun nights in the future,” she said. “Kids always like to come out and play in the pool. Those are usually pretty popular.”
Swim team parent Johnny Kerns helped demonstrate that support, joining other parents in preparing sandwiches and packaging the dinners.
Kerns said the group would make around 1,200 sandwiches that evening, using mostly donated food.
“Cody Cook of Cody’s BBQ smoked all the beef for us,” Kerns said. “Charlie’s Chicken allowed me to use their kitchen to get all this ready, then Ranger’s Creek BBQ donated sauce for everything.”
Dean said parents donated the buns, made cookies, and pitched in $200 toward purchasing the meat.
Even parents of former Fort Gibson High swimmers showed up to support the team, like Larry Pinion, whose son Robert competed for the school four years ago.
“Since my son was on this team, I thought I’d come down to support them,” he said.
Freshman Connor Schapp said this marked his first time helping with the fundraiser.
“I didn’t know there was going to be this many people,” he said. “That surprised me.”
He didn’t mind the work though.
“I really enjoy helping people, so this is fun,” he said.