By Kevin Redding
Feeding upwards of 50 hungry, growing boys is a gigantic undertaking.
According to head coach Chris Boltrek, the Ward Melville football team receives a meal before each game.
“Before every game, we give them a meal, so that they don’t go through school all day without eating, and then have to play a game at night,” he said.
The school also provides the team with new equipment to make sure the players are properly suited up and stay safe each game.
None of that would be possible if not for the school’s booster club, and on Aug. 1, the Three Village community grabbed their golf clubs once more in an effort to raise money for the Patriots.
“It’s a great fundraiser for the kids,” said Boltrek, who is one of the event’s main organizers. “This helps provide us with things that we otherwise wouldn’t receive, whether it’s uniforms or meals or whatever else the athletes might need.”
The eighth annual golf outing at St. George’s Golf and Country Club commenced at 10 a.m., as roughly 100 parents, educators and community members hopped in their carts for a day of golfing, fundraising and friendly competition. They were all there with one thing in mind: supporting the football team.
“Football is a sport I think few people understand unless they’re in it,” the head coach said. “They might not realize just how big a deal it is when we talk about practice equipment, or how much a sled costs, and how much a shoe costs. Those are huge expenses. It’s about trying to give these [athletes] the best possible experience they can have.”
Last year’s fundraising efforts bought the team new uniforms and practice equipment, and it’s a huge advantage. This year, the outing raised over $10,000, which will go toward sideline replay equiptment.
Before Boltrek took over the team, the Three Village Football booster club had been running the outing for six years with the previous coaches at the helm. For Boltrek, it’s important to build a football-friendly environment in an area that isn’t traditionally known as a football community, and this event shows Three Village’s strides to be a little more gridiron-oriented. It brings everybody together to rally behind a common bond.
Christina Stavropoulos, director of the booster club, couldn’t agree more. Doing everything under the sun to help benefit the football team, she loves seeing the community rally behind them in whatever way they can.
“What’s even better is so many alumni are here — some that played, and some that didn’t, but had friends who did,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see the kids all coming back from college just to play golf and help their school out.”
Gift certificates and bottles of wine donated from local businesses were raffled off.
“There are corporate sponsors here and, of course, we love all the corporate sponsors, but there are local businesses as well,” Stavropoulos said. “They have the 50/50 raffle; the Chinese auction baskets. We have donations from different restaurants, parents. It’s all part of the fundraising effort. Everything is for the kids.”
Before hitting the green, the golfers, donning Ward Melville’s green and gold logo on their hats and shirts, took some practice swings and shots in the warm-up section. Many talked football and the importance of playing multiple sports in school, and how the golf outing helps with that.
“My kids are in the district and one plays football,” said resident John Treder. “This is good for the school. I think the better teams the high school can put out, like with more money to buy equipment and extra coaches, the greater things will be for the kids. It will bring [them] more spirit, you’ll get more people at the games. It gives them the tools to win.”
A representative from Endzone Sports, a Seaford-based football equipment store and proud sponsor of the event, was especially supportive of the team.
“We’re for Melville football,” said Anthony Polo, a representative with the organization. “They have a good coach, nice people involved, and we’re excited for the kids. We’ll do anything for the kids. We want to give back to the school and make sure they’re well-equipped, well-supported in the program and encourage their extracurricular activities. It gives them something to look forward to.”
Beyond the football field, there’s a consistent overall feeling of unity among Three Village because of the team’s growing success.
Charlie Fernandez, coach of the girls’ varsity volleyball team at Ward Melville, wouldn’t have missed the outing for anything, extending his support for Boltrek and the team.
“The best thing that happens at Ward Melville is when we have a good football team,” said Fernandez. “It makes everything better for everybody. It just fires the school up, gets everybody excited. You start seeing all the green and gold around and as the coach of another team, it’s good for us, too.”