For the fourth-time in as many years, Western Carolina Athletics and its fundraising arm, the Catamount Club, put out the call as part of the National Day of Giving, #GivingTuesday. And once again, the generosity of the Catamount Nation brightly shined through.
Through fundraising efforts stemming around the Dec. 3 Giving Tuesday initiative, a total of 254 generous supporters ranging from the West Coast to the Southeast – and points in between – answered the Giving Tuesday challenge by raising a record-setting total of $218,525 for the Field Turf replacement project at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
The final pledged amount of $218,525 is a 337% over the initial lofty goal of $50,000.
“This is incredible,” Assistant Athletic Director and Director of the Catamount Club Ryan Jones stated. “Words cannot describe how excited, proud, and thankful WCU Athletics is for the awesome outpour of support Catamount Nation showed towards the Field Turf Replacement project.” Jones continues, “What Catamount Nation accomplished on Giving Tuesday, was one, if not the, most generous group efforts I have seen in my time at WCU. This effort will go a long ways in ensuring our student-athletes have the best playing surface technology and competitive experience in the Southern Conference. We are excited to show off this new addition to the Catamount faithful in the near future.”
The final pledged amount of $218,525 is a 337-percent increase over the initial lofty goal of $50,000. Of the final amount, $118,125 came in the form of cash gifts and pledges on Giving Tuesday. Participants on Giving Tuesday donors included alumni, former student-athletes, parents of current students and student-athletes, WCU faculty and staff, and even current Catamount student-athletes.
In reaching the collective $50,000 threshold, a challenge gift of an additional $50,000 has been donated by Catamount Club members Mike and Marsha Sullivan. Thanks to the unprecedented outpouring of Catamount Nation in raising over $100,000 on Giving Tuesday, the Sullivan’s decided to add an additional $50,000 commitment to their initial challenge gift, for a total of $100,000 from their family.
The new turf, which is scheduled to be installed prior to the 2020 football season, will maximize performance, reduce the possibility of injury, and also upgrade branding elements to provide a fresh look to leave a lasting impression that will help recruit the top student-athletes to Cullowhee. Included in the project is a turf area referenced as the “Hog Pit,” a 35-yard area located just inside the main entrance off the main field that will allow for more sled work, enhancing practice efficiencies for the Catamount football team.
But the football program is far from the lone benefactor of the new surface. The state-of-the-art turf replacement will continue to be used by most all WCU’s student-athletes in athletic performance for strength and conditioning programs; WCU’s “Pride of the Mountains” marching band benefits from the new surface; WCU intramurals and the spirit/cheer programs also utilize the football field space.
The new field is also expected to enhance the experience of fans whether in the stadium or watching via broadcast.
Previous Giving Tuesday initiatives from WCU Athletics and the Catamount include Student-Athlete Academic Resource Center upgrades in 2016 in the form of study carrels (62 donors, $20,475 raised); Sports Medicine recovery and rehabilitation equipment in 2017 (65 donors, $14,072 raised); and laptop computers for use in the Student-Athlete Academic Resource Center last year (90 donors, $14,935).
These one-time annual initiatives complement the Catamount Club’s primary focus and mission of providing scholarship opportunities for Western Carolina’s student-athletes. Last year’s Annual Fund exceeded the fundraising goal of $1.62 million benefiting scholarships, finishing the fiscal year at $1.661 million. In total, factoring in the athletic scholarship fund, endowed scholarships, and sport-specific contributions, the Catamount Club through the generosity of its membership raised $2.326 million, the third consecutive year WCU has eclipsed the $2 million mark.