To help deal with a shrinking budget, administrators at Center Grove Community School Corporation in Greenwood, Ind., were planning to institute an athletic fee for all high school and middle school student-athletes. But one phone call from local auto dealer Ray Skillman changed that.
"Ray contacted me and said he wanted to help out," says Center Grove Board of Trustees President Carol Tumey. "He didn't have anything specific in mind, but knew he wanted to do something."
What resulted from that phone call was a $1 million gift that will ensure no family will have to pay participation fees for the next five years. Some money from the donation will also help pay for coaches' salaries and team warm-up shirts, and $10,000 per year will go to the arts department.
In return, Skillman will receive naming rights to the high school football stadium and will be given advertising signage on scoreboards for the football, softball, baseball, and soccer fields, as well as the basketball court. "A million dollars? I'd never been involved in a donation of anything over $1,000, so this was just amazing," says Center Grove Superintendent Rich Arkanoff.
Just as important, Skillman's generosity has inspired others. A couple weeks after his donation was announced, the school received $200,000 from Johnson Memorial Hospital and Community Health Network. And a local farmer, Rob Richards, offered to supply the district's elementary schools with new basketball nets after noticing none of the current goals had them.
"Ray opened the door," Arkanoff says. "I've used the phrase, 'See a need, fill a need.' Ray saw there was a need to help families pay for athletics, and he was able to fill that need. Mr. Richards did the same with the basketball courts."