Column: Gus Macker organizers need community’s help

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 11, 2005

There is simply no question being a parent is a lot of hard work.

I was blessed in so many ways when my kids were growing up &045; starting with bosses who allowed me to work around the kids’ schedules. They were far busier than I allowed myself to be and the job flexibility was a priceless perk.

Whenever the kids asked to join a group or participate in an activity, though, it wasn’t as simple as saying yes. I had to weigh their interest against how much time I felt I could commit to it.

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With few exceptions, the programs they found worthwhile were valuable and I made the commitment to volunteer in whatever capacity I could. The time spent allowed me time with the kids, but my time was a valuable asset to the group as well. As I saw it, my involvement was a win-win for everyone, even though at times I felt stretched to the breaking point.

I worked a demanding, stress-filled full-time job, then ran from one thing to another with the kids, from the time they got out of school until 9 p.m., or later, some nights. I worried about their nutrition as several nights a week we stopped for fast food, or grabbed something from home which we ate far too quickly, or worse, on the run.

Ryan was a Boy Scout and besides going to the weekly meetings and later serving as a den mom, I joined the governing committee. Any parent with a boy in the Scouting program knows the value of the program, but there’s a lot more to it than taking your kid to the meetings. I would do it all again, in a heart beat,

because my son and I had so much fun working on the projects to earn his badges.

My daughter was a tap dancer and I’ve lost track of the number of years I planned days off during the final week of practices before the spring show so I could help as needed.

Yeah, being a parent is a lot of hard work.

But so is planning events and activities for the kids to enjoy and which ultimately benefit the community. Ask the Gus Macker organizing team, who are plum tuckered out after 10 years of planning the 3-on-3 basketball tournament, usually held in June.

They are at a crossroads this year &045; trying to decide if they want to continue the program. If they decide to continue, it requires signing a three-year contract for a tournament which is experiencing declining numbers. It has also become ever more difficult to line up financial sponsors and volunteers &045; to critical elements to the success of the tournament.

Approximately 250 volunteers are needed from the time planning starts in December or January right through cleanup at the conclusion of the event. Volunteers work the courts as score keepers, referees and court watchers, help with set up and tear down of the equipment, keep garbage picked up, and so many other tasks we take for granted during the weekend.

Hosting the event isn’t cheap either. My mouth dropped when I heard the roughly $20,000 price-tag attached to the Gus Macker event. Though the pay-off in terms of economic impact for Albert Lea is estimated at about half a million dollars, $20,000 is still a lot of money to raise. Many businesses have been generous over the years, but they have suffer have been through tough times, too

Looking at another three-year commitment is a bit overwhelming for planners and they are justified in asking if the effort is worth it. Upwards of 500 hours are spent collectively over the course of a six-month planning period by organizers, and that doesn’t count the hours spent during the course of the tournament, nor does it take into account the hours volunteers spend during the event.

Over lunch a couple weeks ago, the organizers shared their dilemma with me and asked if it should continue. In complete ignorance, I said sure. But as I listened to them share the reality of keeping it in town, I couldn’t say unequivocally that they should go down fighting to keep it here.

I didn’t hear a group of whiners &045; these people have worked hard each year for 10 years to run a successful Macker tournament because the kids enjoy it so much. Rather, what I heard was a group of people who, though dedicated, are tired &045; tired of all the work, with little help, little thanks, and open to pot shots from some who sit on the sidelines instead of pitching in.

There is no doubt in my mind &045; I’ve organized events in which I counted on others to be generous with their time and money and it’s no picnic &045; these people would be justified if they walked away and didn’t sign the contract. What they need is help, both in terms of money and volunteers, to keep this tournament alive in Albert Lea. They need help in the months prior to the event and they need help during the event.

Let them know if you are interested in helping, either as a volunteer or as a financial sponsor by calling Pam at Northbridge Mall or Dennis at the Albert Lea Family YMCA. But don’t wait &045; the team will be making a decision by mid-October.

(Debbie Irmen, Tribune managing editor)