LITTLE EGG HARBOR – The Pinelands Junior Wildcats football team is raising funds to supplement their new field with equipment for the upcoming fall season, after being displaced from the Pinelands Regional High School’s grounds due to continuing construction.
According to Wildcats president and a lifelong resident of Little Egg Harbor Township, George Martin, the team has gained the use of a field on the township complex off of Route 539 for this fall, since being displaced. However, the field lacks certain equipment necessary to host the team during its season such as a scoreboard, bleachers, and storage, among other materials.
“We’ve been relying on the high school for 40 years,” said Martin, noting that the administration has been great in working with the team, providing the facilities free of charge. Martin also stated that the Wildcats even award $500 in annual scholarships to graduating senior football players.
However, part of the upgrades occurring on the school grounds includes the fields.
“After the Pinelands Regional School District passed their referendum concerning buildings and grounds in January 2017, we were told that the facilities may not be available in the fall of 2018 and beyond. Further complications to the school in the fall of 2017 accelerated the process and the construction on the varsity field commenced in the past month,” according to Matthew Davis of the Wildcats crew.
Martin explained that the fields are being reconditioned and the school is now limiting the usage of the field to help preserve them for longer, thus forcing the team to relocate.
After meeting with the governing body of Little Egg Harbor, Martin said that they were granted permission to use the field on the township complex. However, there is a catch: this field is a soccer field originally and will take some work to transform it to an operational football field.
Martin remarked that the township does not have an extensive budget for recreational services, which means that the team must raise money to supply the field with the appropriate equipment to do this.
The 2018 adopted municipal budget for Little Egg Harbor shows only $145,000 appropriated for Parks and Recreation for the 2018 year. While this is up $43,000 from the previous year, it doesn’t leave much room for extra spending.
Martin said that the team was originally hoping to raise about $16,000 for the necessary equipment purchases. However, over the past few weeks, they have already raised about $14,000 nearly reaching their goal in a short period of time.
“Things are rolling very quickly,” so the team has decided to push past the original goal and aim higher, he said.
“For the past 5 years, in order to keep costs down and not burden people due to Sandy, [Pinelands] Jr. Wildcats has had virtually no fundraising,” stated Davis.
However, recent events have put the team in a position that forces them to change this policy. They will continue to fundraise until late August, possibly early September, when the fall season is slated to begin.
Since beginning fundraising, the high school has donated goal posts for the team’s use on the new field. Martin also informed that the team has received enough donations to order a new scoreboard at the cost of approximately $8,000, not including installation.
The Wildcats are still in need of bleachers and a storage unit.
Fundraising has been primarily comprised of advertising, he added. Martin explained that they will be placing ads of local business that make a “lifetime” investment in the team on the scoreboard, banners, and even on the storage facility, once obtained.
You can also donate via their GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/pinelands-jr-wildcat-footballcheer.
The GoFundMe page stated: “In order not to exclude any players from participating, our goal has always been to keep registration at a minimum while still providing the necessities…Youth sports offers so much more than the act of playing the sport, such as leadership, friendship, sportsmanship, perseverance, commitment and so much more.”
While selling ads has done the majority to bring in funds, the GoFundMe has brought in about 25 percent of the total donations, said Martin.
The Pinelands Jr. Wildcats football team originated back in the 1980s. From 2008 until 2010 they were part of Jersey Shore Pop Warner, when the league switched over to AYF (American Youth Football).
The team has both spring and fall leagues for those 7-12 years old. Between the footballers and the cheerleaders for each league, the Wildcats bring together about 300 families, according to Martin.
Martin feels confident that they will reach their fundraising goal “without question.”