By Steve Raymond
News Report Staff
One million dollars.
If everything goes as planned, a local fundraiser will have raised that much over its 25-year history and divided it equally between two local high schools.
On Thursday, Sept. 13, the Effingham Country Club will be the site of the 25th annual Carl Koerner Memorial Sports Spectacular.
With the participation, sponsorships and donations anticipated, the total funds raised since the inaugural year will exceed $1 million. And all of that has been donated to the sports programs at Effingham High School and St. Anthony High School.
After raising $69,000 a year ago, this year’s goal is $100,000 – and organizers of the event are confident that can be accomplished.
“We have had great support for this event,” said Paul Koerner, of Koerner Distributor, Inc. “Some of our sponsors and some of the players have been a part of this all 25 years. I think many of them have this date circled on their calendar and look forward to playing. We certainly appreciate everyone’s loyalty and participation.”
Prior to 1994, Carl Koerner and Koerner Distributor helped sponsor a large fundraising event for Eastern Illinois University. But after Russ Marvel, the principal at Effingham High School, talked with Carl, the Koerner family decided to make a change.
“We changed our emphasis from EIU to local high school sports,” Paul recalled. “We decided to put together a fundraiser in conjunction with St. Anthony and Effingham high schools.”
“Carl wanted to help the camaraderie between the two schools,” said Mark Mayhood, who was president of the Effingham Sportsbackers at that time. “When Carl and Russ came and asked for our input, it was an easy decision. They wanted to give us money and we were broke.”
“There are a lot of people in this community that have ties to both schools, just like I do,” added Troy Greene, who along with Mayhood has been part of the organizing committee since its inception. “It was needed and it was a good fit.”
And it was successful from the outset. Organizers hoped for 20 teams that first year and had 30. A total of $15,000 was raised at the ’94 event.
From the beginning, the sports programs benefited from the donated funds.
“Things like buying uniforms and sending kids to camps,” Chris Koester, another committee member, noted. “Without these funds, the schools couldn’t do these things, or certainly not as often. You’ll never see a golf outing run like this. It’s fantastic. And it has had an incredible impact on both schools.”
The field is already filling for the 2018 event. There are 34 five-person teams signed up for the afternoon scramble, which will tee off at 12:30 p.m. For the first time, there will also be the opportunity to play in the morning. Organizers are hoping for 15 more teams that will tee off at 7:45 a.m.
The entry fee is $750 per team. That includes carts, lunch, drinks and snacks on the course and a steak dinner. There will also be various contests on the course and a chance for one golfer to win $1 million with a hole-in-one. In addition, there will be prizes for the winning team.
Hole sponsorships for $100 are available and businesses/individuals are also welcome to make a donation to the cause.
“This is a special year for us, being the 25th annual,” Paul said. “We’re putting some finishing touches on that night’s program. We hope to have some special speakers and there will be a live auction.”
And checks will be presented to both schools, which everyone on the committee agreed was the highlight of the day.
This year’s major sponsors include J&J Ventures, Midland States Bank, Effingham New Car Dealers, McHugh Family & Hospitality Group, Country Financial & Representatives, and Niemerg’s Steakhouse.
“We certainly want to thank the Country Club, St. Anthony Booster Club, Effingham Sportsbackers and all of the sponsors and players,” Phil Koerner said. “People enjoy themselves for a great cause to help both schools.”
There is still time to sign up for the event. For more information or to sign up, call Greene at 217-347-7113 or Mayhood at 217-821-7025.
“One of my greatest joys has been seeing the collaboration develop between the Sportsbackers and the Boosters Club,” Paul admitted. “They all try to make this event better every year. Through these past 25 years, we have had the opportunity to work with different people on this project. We’ve met people we would have never met otherwise. And we’re proud of the positive affect it has for our local sports programs.
“We take our sports seriously here in Effingham,” Paul added. “My father was quite an athlete. He was an all-state football player. He took a sense of pride in the local sports programs. These two high schools have high standards and this event helps them meet those standards.”