On Tuesday night, David Brunk's plan to help Columbia County middle school sports came full circle.
Brunk, commissioner of the Peach Belt Conference, made a presentation at the Columbia County school board meeting.
He announced that the conference, of which Augusta State University is a member, has donated $1,328 toward the county's middle school sports programs.
The money was raised during the Peach Belt's Fall Festival in November. The weekend event at Blanchard Woods Park featured the conference's cross country championship, as well as the men's and women's soccer semifinals and finals.
Specifically, the proceeds came from the Fall Festival's 5K/1K Fun Run and Walk. Brunk said that about 50 people participated.
In addition, Brunk said the Peach Belt donated eight cases of softballs to the county's eight middle schools.
For Brunk, the idea to help came about after he met with the committee appointed to examine the county's middle school sports programs.
"I had read about the plight of middle school athletic programs and teams in Columbia County," Brunk said in early November. "I thought, 'This might be just the way to really get the Peach Belt more involved in the community and something we could build on for each year.'"
I'd say that raising more than $1,000 in donations is a good start at making a good impression.
In November, Columbia County school board members decided not to immediately act on a list of recommendations to restructure middle school sports programs.
Those recommendations included:
- Limiting sports to just seventh- and eighth-graders, effectively eliminating junior varsity programs.
- Starting football and softball seasons after Labor Day, and starting basketball season after the first semester of school.
- Allowing seventh- and eighth-graders to play on high school teams, at the high school's discretion, in any sport not offered at the middle school level.
- Eliminate golf, but add volleyball to middle schools.
- Charging a participation fee to play middle school sports, with the understanding that no player can be denied due to an inability to pay the fee.
The committee was mediated by Sandra Carraway, the school system's deputy superintendent. In November, she acknowledged the county's appreciation for Brunk's efforts.
"It's rare that people come to us wanting to help in that regard," she said. "So we're really thankful to him."
While $1,328 isn't a massive amount, considering the cost of running even one sports program, this could be the start of something bigger.
The Peach Belt's festival likely will gain more exposure and popularity now that it has become an annual event. That could mean more money pouring in for future events.
In addition, it could spur other groups to look at the county's middle school sports as a beneficiary.
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