A donkey basketball fundraiser at the Freeman High School gym Saturday night, Nov. 11, didn’t only meet the expectations of organizer Mindee Birnstiehl. It exceeded them.
“I was blown away,” said the FHS chorus instructor, who is heading up a fundraising effort so her students can fulfill an invitation and travel to New York City and Carnegie Hall in the spring of 2019. “I had been so busy running around that when the games were about to start, and I finally got a chance to see how many people were in the gym, I couldn’t believe it. It looked like we were having a district basketball tournament here. That’s how many people were there.”
Birnstiehl said more than 700 tickets were sold — 627 of them in advance. While there are still expenses that need to be accounted for, she estimates the Nov. 11 fundraiser generated around $8,000. That includes proceeds from ticket sales, a pork loin meal prior the games, concessions at the game and a 50-50 drawing.
“My goal was to break that $7,000 profit mark, so that’s exceptional,” Birnstiehl said.
Donkey basketball came to Freeman thanks to the Wisconsin-based Dairyland Donkey Ball show, which travels the country with its team of donkeys for events like the one here on Saturday. Local organizers put together four teams for the games — one made up of students, one made up of staff and two made up of players from the larger community.
The event was played tournament-style, with all four teams taking the court in two games for two, eight-minute halves, and the winners meeting up for an eight-minute championship game. In the championship game, one of the two community teams defeated the staff team 4-0.
The fundraising effort for the NYC trip got underway this past summer and generated more than $13,000 through various efforts — including an all-night softball tournament. Saturday’s proceeds will put the money raised at more than $20,000. Birnstiehl is making plans for another major fundraiser this spring in an effort to make the trip financially accessible to her students.
“I just want to give these kids this opportunity,” she said. “If we can raise half or three-fourths of the money needed (to subsidize out-of-pocket expenses), I would hope that parents would be happy with that.”