DeKALB – Last year was a milestone year for the DeKalb-Sycamore First National Challenge, as the fundraising event marked more than $1 million in donations generated for the DeKalb and Sycamore boosters clubs since its inception in 2000.
Now in its 18th year, the local fundraiser, which is set against the backdrop of varsity football and boys and girls basketball games between the rival schools, is looking to add to this achievement during its annual football games Friday. Event co-founder Gary Evans said solicitation efforts have been going on since June, but he does not have a target fundraising goal in mind.
“The fact that we reached that [$1 million] and got there, we’re just going to keep going,” Evans said. “We’ll try to raise as much money as we can in a short period of time, and we have about 85 wonderful sponsors this year that help us.”
The event will start at 4 p.m. Friday at Northern Illinois University’s Huskie Stadium with a tailgate party that will include a pork chop sandwich dinner, a bounce house for children and other activities. Festivities will last until the varsity game kicks off at 7:30 p.m.
Evans said about 4,500 people are expected for the tailgate, which accounts for a large percentage of total donations for the event. Kids zone activities will be provided by the Kishwaukee Family YMCA.
The game between the schools’ sophomore teams begins at 5:15 p.m., with the varsity game at 7:30 p.m. DeKalb has been on a roll, winning the past three games, most recently last year’s 28-12 victory.
Advance tickets will be $12 for adults and $6 for students and children and will provide admission to the games and the tailgate area events. Game night tickets will be $14 for adults and $8 for students and children.
Evans said the goals for the First National Challenge are always to enhance the attendance of this school rivalry, raise awareness about the work the DeKalb and Sycamore boosters perform and to raise money.
“It’s always a big rivalry and it’s always a good crowd. It should be a perfect night,” he said. “Booster clubs will work with athletic directors on what they need and will pretty much support a little bit of every sport.”
Evans said all of the event’s sponsors will be recognized equally with banners on display during the tailgate and on the scoreboards and field.
All funds collected during the First National Challenge football games and basketball games, which will take place in January, will be split evenly between the schools’ booster clubs for equipment purchases and special projects related to high school athletics.
Tickets can be bought at DeKalb and Sycamore’s high and middle schools, the DeKalb and Sycamore chambers of commerce, Kishwaukee Family YMCA or any of the First National Bank locations in DeKalb and Sycamore. Student athletes throughout the community also will also be selling tickets.
In total, the First National Challenge has collected more than $2 million, which has not only benefited athletic programs in DeKalb and Sycamore, but also Kaneland, Sandwich, Yorkville, Plano, Harvard and Marengo.
Friday also will be when the First National Challenge will take place for Sandwich and Kaneland schools.
For information or to become a sponsor for the event, email Gary Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 815-754-5131.