At its core, UPEI Athletics and Recreation's cause is to promote post-secondary education, physical activity, and health and wellness. All of these are beneficial for personal and community development. The more we can play a part in encouraging children/youth to strive for higher education, activity, and wellness, the better.
The University is a registered charitable organization. We (Athletics & Recreation) have always run fundraisers to supplement the funds we receive from both charitable donations and operational funds to support Athletics and Recreation programming at UPEI. Between our varsity teams and our Department staff, every year we are involved in running bottle drives, raffles, silent auctions, car washes, 50/50 draws, 10 for 10 ticket sales, and events like Kitchen Parties, Hot Stoves, Breakfast of Champions, golf tournaments and sports camps. Fundraising for UPEI Athletics and Recreation programming is ongoing and essential. We see Gold Rush is a more efficient and effective way of generating revenue than some of the other options we have been trying up to this point.
We have outlined below the main reasons we have implemented the Gold Rush initiative.
1. Enhancement and Sustainability of Varsity Programs
To be competitive at the AUS and U SPORTS level, we need to have:
- Strong coaching and coaching development,
- The ability to scout and recruit the best student-athletes by offering them Athletic Financial Awards,
- Supports in place for our student-athletes (academic, mental health, etc.),
- Programs in place for high-performance training (nutrition, fitness, mental preparation, etc.), and
- Quality exhibition competition against out-of-conference U SPORTS or NCAA teams
As outlined above, there are many factors to operate a successful varsity program, all of which have associated costs. One of the greatest challenges we face at UPEI is that we do not have the same level of endowed funds on which to draw from to enhance and sustain our varsity programs like more established universities . Instead, UPEI relies heavily on operational funds to offer these supports and competitive opportunities.
The goal, over time, through Gold Rush and other Department of Development and Alumni Engagement initiatives, is to raise $10-15 million in endowed funds so that expenditures like Athletic Financial Awards can be paid from the interest of these endowments, creating sustainable funding for varsity programs for years to come. We are also hopeful that Gold Rush will take some fundraising pressure off our coaches, allowing them to be more focused on player and team preparation so that UPEI can vie for AUS and U SPORTS championships.
2. Creating more Recreational Opportunities for UPEI students
Our goal at UPEI Athletics and Recreation is to provide programs and opportunities that meet the needs of all of our almost-five-thousand UPEI students. This requires more than just traditional programming, and, therefore, we are always seeking new ways to promote and deliver activity. Funds raised from Gold Rush will help support additional and enhanced recreational programs[MOU3] .
3. Supporting Community Engagement – Panthers UN1TE Programs
The UPEI Panthers are highly engaged in community development. It has been such a large focus that we have created the Panthers UN1TE community engagement framework (http://www.gopanthersgo.ca/about/panthers_un1te).
Here are some of the community engagement initiatives the UPEI Panthers support:
a) Reading with Pride Program – Focused on promoting literacy, last year over 40 UPEI student-athletes were involved in the Reading with Pride Program. The program was offered at seven elementary schools (Central Queens, Prince Street, Sherwood, Spring Park, Stratford, West Royalty, West Kent). One day a week, our students spent an hour at "their" respective schools reading with children. It was an extremely positive experience for all and a program we will continue to deliver for years to come.
b) Special Olympics
c) Easter Seals
d) Bell Let's Talk – Mental Health
e) Shoot for the Cure
f) Run for the Cure
g) The Island Marathon
h) Various Food Drives
i) Various School Visits and Assemblies
Our student athletes are exceptional role models. They give a lot of their time for the betterment of our community. Gold Rush funds will allow us to offset some of the expenses (student travel, giveaways, etc.) associated with our community engagement programs.
4. Allowing everyone to support the Panthers – Go Panthers Go!
Our main target groups with the Gold Rush fundraiser are UPEI alumni, employees, and existing fans and supporters. Gold Rush is a tool that can help "Panthers UN1TE" and support our goals. Not everyone can afford to buy season tickets, sponsor programs, or donate funds for scholarships. However, most people can afford $5.00. This allows them to feel good about supporting UPEI Athletics and Recreation programming while also giving them a chance to win.