ISC struggles with funding, volunteers |

ISC struggles with funding, volunteers

Tonya Bina
Grand Lake CO Colorado

A group of Grand Lake citizens is seeking ways to keep a 31-year-old philanthropic organization afloat.

The Independent Sports Club was founded by the late John Kennelly, who owned Spirit Lake Lodge in Grand Lake, to help youth in the area by raising funds to support their various endeavors. Raising money for a child in need of a wheelchair was the first Independent Sports Club accomplishment.

With about 30 charter members, the original group hosted fundraising events such as snowmobile races on the lakes and Bingo races. Soon a golf tournament and wild game dinner became mainstay Independent Sports Club fundraisers in the Grand Lake area, followed by an annual holiday gala and, more recently, an annual community yard sale, according to Club president Bernie McGinn, who has been involved with the Club since its inception.

Throughout the life of the organization, about $308,000 has been donated to help Grand County’s youth attend sports camps, take school trips, acquire uniforms, attend workshops, acquire special-needs equipment or attend college.

Each year, the Club grants a total of $6,000 in scholarship money to students for furthering educational pursuits. Two-thirds of the money is divided evenly among both East and West Grand schools; and a $2,000 “at-large” scholarship is available to any student in the county.

“We do nothing else but help kids,” said 6-year member Karen Raymond, the organization’s secretary. Dozens of students from Kremmling to Winter Park to Grand Lake have benefited from the Club, according to a list she presented.

“One of the reasons we love doing this is because these kids are amazing,” said 10-years member Marti Edwards. “Most have worked hard to earn some money and they may just need a little more. The kids we have up here are truly amazing.”

The organization’s ability to raise funds to support students has been adversely impacted by the economy, and the Club is seeking outside grants to keep its mission intact.

On top of that, not one member of the core group of volunteers any longer has a child in the school system. They are seeking new volunteers to not only help, but who have the passion to perhaps reform the organizational structure and provide fresh energies to move the Club’s goals forward, they said. They are willing to talk to any interested parties anywhere in Grand County.

“We don’t want to see it dissolve,” said board member Peter Esmonde. He and his wife Deloris have been involved in the Club for the past 16 years.

The Club “teaches students public speaking, thinking through financing, fielding questions and giving back,” Esmonde said. Each recipient must stand in front of the group and present his or her need, then return to the group at a later time and talk about his or her endeavor, according to Esmonde. The process teaches civic involvement because each child is required to help the Club in future fundraising events as a way to “give back.”

“The Independent Sports Club has helped a lot of kids and families,” said Gena Macchione, whose two sons Brian and Allen both were given ISC funds to attend wrestling high school national championships. “You know that saying, ‘It takes a village’? It’s like that.”

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603

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