Mustangs blitz to raise money

COSTA MESA — During the fall, winter and spring, Mason Tufuga is a busy kid. You will find him either on a football field, a basketball court or a baseball diamond at Costa Mesa High.

On Wednesday night, he showed up to campus with his football jersey on. Instead of making his way onto the field, he hit the streets.

Tufuga joined 50 of his Costa Mesa High football teammates, 32 girls that cheer for the Mustangs during Friday night games, and half a dozen Costa Mesa Middle School basketball players to raise money for their respective programs.

In groups of four, they went door to door in the neighborhoods in Costa Mesa's school zone. The players and cheerleaders came with a script, one that they memorized. Their goal was to talk to neighbors and identify those who can support Costa Mesa's athletic programs.

"Yeah, it was kind of awkward," Tufuga, a freshman, said of knocking on doors and asking for donations. "I just put in some personality."

And just like that, Tufuga and his group got one person to give $100. When they returned to campus, they came with $234, the third-best total out of all the teams.

The high school year might be ending this month, but Costa Mesa's football and cheer programs launched a successful fundraising method, with the help of the middle school basketball team. Katrina Foley, a Mustangs booster, said the groups raised $3,411.99 in a little more than an hour.

Foley, whose two sons, Sam and Ben Swanson, will be 10th- and eighth-graders at the high school and middle school next school year, initiated the event. Foley said the event raised funds for team room lockers, football's new grade-point average rewards incentive program, which she created, travel for cheer competitions and camps, and equipment and uniforms for middle school athletics.

"I used my political skills of walking neighborhoods and applied them to raise money for the Mesa team," said Foley, who served on the Costa Mesa City Council before becoming the Newport-Mesa Unified School District trustee.

"We have limited resources and I'm trying to help the program create opportunities for fundraising that don't require you spending money, and also to build support in the community for all of our teams."

The goal for the grade-point average rewards incentive program is to get the team to a collective 3.0 GPA next year. Football players receive gifts donated from the community when earning a GPA that is 2.5 or better, and more for 3.0 or better, as well as 3.5 or better, and 4.0 or better.

New football cleats, as well as a football spirit pack (sweatshirt, T-shirt, shorts and socks) are among the gifts for those with a 4.0 or better.

Foley said the program is accepting sponsors to help with the grade-point average rewards incentive program.

Wally Grant, the football coach, and Kori Johnson, the cheer coach, thanked Foley for her ideas. Wally called them a win-win situation.

Foley said the football and cheer programs each received $1,341 for their efforts, and the middle school athletics program $675.

Foley said the programs plan to have a second fundraiser in July. The group that raises the most money from both fundraisers will keep half of what it raised and split the winnings among members, Foley said.

"The school and the district does a good job of making sure that the helmets and the shoulders pads are provided, but outside of that, it's left to us," said Grant, adding that in order for his program to function, it raises $40,000 a year, $80,000 less than the cheer program's annual budget.

"It's great for the kids to go out into the community to show our community, you know, that the kids really care about raising money for their programs, too. It's just not parents doing everything," said Johnson, who graduated from Costa Mesa in 1990. "The kids do take an active part in fundraising. It also shows the community that we have some great athletes, some great kids, who are really proud of themselves.

"Back in the old days, we were supported by the school district and the school. We really didn't do too much fundraising. We pulled some M&M;'s was all I can really remember. Really, it was up to the school to pay for what we did. Times have changed. It's a lot of money. Cheerleading, we try to raise about $120,000 a year for all the things we do, but it's well worth it. The girls get a lot from it."

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