An evening of sports networking

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A sketch of President Jeff Keshen selling lemonade. The sign on the stand reads “support your school teams!”
Now if only we could fundraise so that tuition did not go up every single year... OpenClipart-Vectors via pixabay and Michaela Aguilar, manipulated by lee lim

University of Regina raises funds for sports

Sports is often seen as a life confined in the field, but University of Regina’s Varsity Sport defines it beyond that. On September 6, they observed their 13th annual edition of “An Evening in Support of Varsity Sport” at the Conexus Arts Centre.  

“The event is two-fold. It kicks off our season, […] [and is an] opportunity for us to bring our community together. Our students, families, coaches, and alumni together. It’s our major fundraiser – collective fundraiser as a group where all our teams contribute to selling tickets, sponsorships, and then our President’s Office matches up to $150,000 of the tickets sold. It’s an event that allows our teams to fundraise to help support pieces of sport that we don’t have budget to support,” explained Lisa Robertson, Director of Sport, Community Engagement & Athlete Development.  

This fundraiser is held to support varsity sports like basketball, volleyball, hockey, football, soccer, swimming, and track and field. The athletics office supports only to a certain extent, and the rest is to be taken care of by the team themselves as they do not take care of assisting coaches, nonconference travels, or other similar items, and this fundraiser is a way to support these teams for those expenses. To switch up things, the organizers decided to set up the event in the evening in contrast to how things were before pandemic – breakfasts only. “We made it an evening event where it was sort of a reception, […] it was more of a networking connection event,” said Robertson.  

Special guest speakers were Sarah Colonna, standup comedian, actor, and New York Times best-selling author; and Jon Ryan, alumni of Rams football and kicker of several NFL and CFL teams – a married couple. “They came in and did a bit of a skit for us. Entertained us. And then back out in the lobby for more mixing, mingling, and seeing each other,” said Robertson.  

Transitioning from virtual to in-person was perceived as being challenging as the uncertainty of people turning up to was a huge factor. “The biggest challenge was not knowing if people were going to come, and whether we would be able to sell tickets, but we did. We ended up selling 570 tickets.” The new format of doing it in the evening was also a switch-up since last time. “It was really from scratch. The nice thing is that next year we know what we want to do different, what we want to do better, but in general the event was extremely successful both in raising money and people enjoying themselves… in fact people wanted more time to mingle.” 

This tradition was introduced by Vianne Timmons, former University of Regina President, as different Universities across the nation started the same in their respective athletic spaces to help match the scholarship and support the Varsity Sports for their operations. Jeff Keshen, current President of University of Regina, decided to continue this tradition and increased the matching from $100,000 to $150,000. “It evolved and survived through the pandemic is the big thing,” said Robertson. The organizers were thrilled to have exceeded their goal of selling 500 tickets that filled them with the energy of going beyond their expectations.  

With the community engagement regaining normalcy, the organizers decided to rebrand and change the look of the event, based on the feedback they got. They plan to set higher targets for the next year, such as aiming to sell 700 tickets. As the stakeholders and sponsors got to know about this tradition, the organizers intend to maintain this communication and build on this relationship. To include more people in this setting, the Athletics department envisions creating the ability for more people to donate if they are not able to attend the event.  

The Athletics department is always on the lookout for volunteers for their events. “If students are interested to get involved in that event or other events that we do, Andrew Hamilton [andrew.hamilton@uregina.ca] is our coordinator for marketing and student engagement and he is the person they should reach out to,” said Robertson on discussing different opportunities in a volunteering capacity within Varsity Sport. The department prefers keeping the athletes up front in these events so that they gain exposure and meet people in this community with shared passion, experiences, and goals, but are always open to newer people to join and assist in their events in the required capacity.  

“People went away feeling great about the Cougars and the Rams, feeling like they had an opportunity to connect with people they hadn’t seen in a long time and connect with our student athletes. Lots of our student athletes attended as well,” said Robertson. She felt that the overall ambience of the evening was filled to the brim with energy, passion, and love for the community of sports and sportsmanship.  

“Come out to games. It is free with your student ID. It is very fun. This year in the gym, in the volleyball and basketball [games], for every game there is going to be a section called the Cougar Country where it’s sponsored by the Baller’s and the environment in there will be extremely fun. It is very good entertainment value. And it is right here on-campus,” continued Roberston.  

“Being a part of your campus and athletics is a huge part where you can create such great memories. […] These are the best years of your life. Take in the culture of what’s happening in your campus.” The sport community continues to impact students and bring value to the community. With this spectacular kick-off to the season, Varsity Sport is set out to succeed. 

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