Letterwinners raising funds with dinner
Author Tom Wolfe had it wrong.
You CAN go home again. At least that's the message the Hawaii Letterwinners Club is trying to send to former UH athletes ... and with style.
The first Letterwinners Club dinner is scheduled for Sept. 13 at the Sheraton Royal Hawaiian, a gathering club officials want to use as both a social and a fundraiser.
The goals are to increase membership as well as increase donations for the club's endowment fund, which currently is at $75,000. The amount for the sustaining level is $250,000, which would allow the club to give scholarships to former and current student-athletes.
"We've been able to do small things, like donating laptops, but we want to be able to do things on a regular basis," said former football player Jim Donovan, the current club vice president and one of the founding members. "It's a fundraiser, but it's also a chance for letterwinners to see old friends and make new ones.
"Once a letterwinner, always a letterwinner."
But there hasn't always been a club for former athletes nor a clubhouse. The newly renovated clubhouse is next to Klum Gym, two old portable classrooms made into one room that includes a kitchenette used for receptions.
The organization was formed in 1997 "because we needed to find some way to stay connected to teammates and the university," said former basketball player Artie Wilson, the club's first president and a member of its board of directors. "The club afforded us that opportunity, to continue the tradition of Hawaii athletics. We also wanted to give back and help other graduates, maybe open some doors for job opportunities.
"It started with a handful of former letterwinners and has become a very successful club. The unique part is you had to have earned a letter. We've had people who wanted to be honorary members, but we wanted something special, restricted to those who bled, sweated and played for UH. We're hoping to showcase that commitment with a nice, quality, classy event."
Through Donovan's association with Sheraton Hotels as the executive director of the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, both the hotel chain and bowl organization have donated to get the inaugural event off the ground. The night includes a no-host cocktail hour, dinner, entertainment and live and silent auctions.
The date was chosen to coincide with the first home football game (UNLV, Sept. 16) and the Rainbow Wahine volleyball matches (Cal Poly, Sept. 14-15). According to Donovan, it's also a great way to kick off UH's centennial (1907-2007).
"The timing is very coincidental but perfect," he said. "We hope we'll have several hundred people. And we're hoping to get the endowment fully funded within five to seven years."
The event is open to the public. Individual tickets are $60, with sponsor tables available from $600-$2,500.
Organizers also hope this will be a way to inform former athletes of the club's existence.
"I didn't know about it until I started working here," said former cheerleader Erica Buder-Nakasone, the assistant to the associate athletic director and the club's executive director. "A lot of former athletes still don't know about it. Or a lot of people think you had to have earned a letter, especially those who played a while back. As long as your name appeared on a roster, we'll take you."
Information on the club is available through the www.HawaiiAthletics.com Web site. For more information on the dinner, contact Buder-Nakasone at 956-6523.