The Rotary Clubs of Kenai, Soldotna, and Kenai River teamed up to help sponsor and support the Kenai River Brown Bears Junior A Hockey program on the final two games of the regular season March 25th and 26th. With an overtime loss and a win for 3 points in the last two games against the Wenatchee Wild, the Brown Bears are battling for a second, third, or fourth seed finish in the tight West Division of the NAHL. "Rotary Weekend" featured special edition Rotary Jerseys worn by the home town team. The jerseys were auctioned to fans with all proceeds going back to the team.
As a part of the Kenai Peninsula Youth Foundation, the Brown Bear's revenue relies heavily on local sponsorships and promotional events like the Rotary Weekend. "We were looking for a way to help the team generate some revenue and at the same time, promote our Rotary club activities," said Trent Dodson of the Kenai Rotary Club. "The jerseys looked great and featured the names of all three Rotary clubs."
Rotarians from all three clubs were on hand to show support and to inform fans on the object of Rotary. Rotary clubs around the world are known for their local community service projects they implement in their communities.
All three of the Central Peninsula's clubs provide scholarship opportunities for local high school students. Specifically, the Kenai Club holds an annual soapbox Derby, teaches Kenai Central High School students business ethics, and has recently begun building a picnic area at the new park in Kenai.
Soldotna Rotary Scholarships are based on the Rotary Motto of "Service Above Self." "Recipients are selected based on community service performed by the applicant during their high school career and not their grade point average or financial need," says scholarship chair Becky Foster of Foster Construction.
"Applications are available at school councilors or the office of Foster Construction. Applications must be received by April 16 2011." Soldotna Rotary scholarships are supported by their annual Rose sale and this year 9 recipients will be selected to receive $1,000 to a school of their choice.
The Brown Bears players themselves are no strangers to community Service either. While the team's day includes studying and practice, a portion of their time is dedicated to giving back to the community. Some community service related activities imparted by the Brown Bears include: Working at the Food Bank twice a week, reading to elementary students, landscaping and yard work at the retirement home, serving food and setting up tents and the Kenai Industry Appreciation Day, and volunteering at several local small businesses in Kenai and Soldotna.
The Kenai River Rotary club is presently raffling a round trip to Seattle for two and tickets to a Mariners game to fund their local literacy projects and global efforts to eliminate polio from planet earth.
In addition to sponsoring the jerseys for auction, the clubs purchased a large block of tickets prior to the game and handed these tickets out to individuals that had never attended a Brown Bears game before. "It was a way to get more folks from the community going to the games, one lady told me it was the first time she had been to a Brown Bears game and said the team really put on a heck of a show for the whole family," said Allen Auxier, Soldotna Rotary club president.
Rotary Weekend set new attendance records for the Brown Bears, breaking the 1,000 fan glass barrier Friday night then breaking it again with 1,050 fans Saturday night. Over $7,000 dollars was netted for the Brown Bears during the jersey auction.
The Brown Bears will face the Ice Dogs in their first post-season playoff game April 8th in Fairbanks.
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