A group of parents of former Lakeville student-athletes are paying it forward by helping current student-athletes and helping the community remain One Lakeville.
The Lakeville Stray Cats are a small group of parents of former Lakeville high school athletes who continue to have an interest in high school sports and activities, said Ron Rishel, one of the founders.
The group formed following the opening of Lakeville South High School. Over the last decade or so, the group has been supporting student-athletes and activities participants who cannot afford the full cost of participation.
“Our passion to follow the Lakeville ‘home team,’ regardless of which school our children attended, led us to form the group,” Rishel said. “Without having children competing who were Panthers or Cougars, the concept of being ‘stay cats’ formed.”
Rishel said the group’s members took pride in their own children’s participation and saw the benefits it offered. Knowing the cost of participation fees and equipment might be too high for some students’ families, the group decided to pitch in.
Over the last six years, the Lakeville Stray Cats have raised nearly $50,000 to support Lakeville Area Public Schools students who participate in co-curricular activities whose families cannot afford the full cost, said Tom Vanasek, a co-founder. This last school year alone, the group provided more than $6,500 to help 43 students on 25 teams across 17 different sports.
The district’s activities directors identify students with needs and make requests to the group for support. Typically, the group provides about $100 per student in need, though activities directors have the discretion to ask for more assistance if they sense the need.
The Stray Cats have been a key group for the athletic departments to work with to ensure that participation numbers did not decrease when the district experienced a difficult financial situation, Strader said.
“These men have made a significant impact on our athletic programs while assisting families in need and ensuring that all kids can participate regardless of their financial circumstances,” Strader said. They have been great to work with and have become great friends of our school district and activities. They certainly live by the motto: Two Cats-One Community!”
Currently, the group has about 100 members, whose $100 joining fee provides the bulk of the funding to support athletes and activities participants. In exchange, Stray Cats members get free admission to most home athletic events and activities, with certain exceptions such as Lakeville North High School’s cabaret night.
And they’re looking for more strays to join the clowder.
“To become a member, all we ask is people pay the $100 annual membership fee and recruit two new members,” Rishel said, adding the new member goal is intended to extend the enjoyment to others and to
The group is open to almost anyone – alumni, parents of alumni and community members – who enthusiastically supports Lakeville Area Public Schools’ student athletes and activities participants, Rishel said. The only people who cannot become members are those whose children currently are enrolled in Lakeville Area Public Schools.
To join, visit http://www.lakevillestraycats.org/ or contact one of the group’s organizers by email:
Tom Vanasek (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ron Rishel (email@example.com)
Brian Knapp (firstname.lastname@example.org)