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home : opinions : opinions July 23, 2016

4/1/2014 12:31:00 PM
Need for scholarships outpaces funding
By Liam Hughes

The Sisters Park & Recreation District (SPRD) serves the youth and adults of Sisters Country with recreation and enrichment opportunities. The majority of the programs SPRD runs are for the youth of our community, and many of these children come from low-income families. For this reason SPRD has the Bonnie Malone Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships to kids in need. Many local community members, businesses, and organizations generously donate to this fund. However, even with SPRD diligently checking the financial situation of each family that applies, the need has started to outpace the fundraising efforts.

SPRD receives a lower rate of tax subsidy than any other park and recreation district in Central Oregon. Bend, Redmond, and even La Pine have higher tax rates. However, this has not prevented SPRD from providing a high level of programming. Whereas most of these park and rec districts receive about half of their overall revenue from taxes, SPRD has been innovative, and with the support of community, has managed to run on just 25 percent tax subsidy.

However, this means that SPRD does not have any tax dollars to contribute to the scholarship program that the community relies on for assistance in everything from preschool to high school sports. All the money SPRD uses for its scholarship fund comes from private donations and grants. However, for the second year in a row, the value of scholarships given out has exceeded the money taken in through donations and grants, leaving the scholarship fund severely depleted.

SPRD staff are trying to find new ways to raise funds, including grant-writing and developing new revenue-generating events.

New events under development include an adult sports tournament series, and residential youth summer camps. The adult sports tournaments will operate under the brand name "Mountain Man" and will strive to attract teams of young adults to travel to Sisters to take part in light-hearted recreational tournaments. The first of these will be a dodgeball tournament May 31 and June 1.

The other new concept SPRD is bringing to life is a residential summer sports camp. For many years SPRD and its partners have held day-camps, where kids come for a few hours a day, work on their skills then go home. This concept will continue. However, the only kids that would be able to participate in this style of camp would be those who live locally. In order to be able to attract kids from all over the state, we have to provide a place for the kids to stay, and 12 hours a day of programming. This is a much bigger challenge, but SPRD's young team of energetic professionals are eager to take this on.

I think the biggest difficulty we will have is marketing. Reaching out to participants who live hundreds of miles away is always a challenge, but I think we have some great ideas for promotion of the events, and the team is working hard to get the word out.

If you would like to help SPRD, either financially in the form of a donation, or by volunteering at one of these events, contact Liam Hughes at 541-549-2091 or

Liam Hughes is the executive director of Sisters Park & Recreation District.

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