The Essential Sixth Man
Booster club presidents, clockwise from left, Basil Sparlin, men’s volleyball; Dora and Kent Youel, women’s golf; Natalie Webb, women’s basketball
For the past 40 years, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Rainbow Warrior Basketball has drawn on the efforts of a team member who never gets to spring from the bench, casting off warm-up pants to enter the game. In fact, this veteran has never even suited up for action on the court…or field, diamond, pool, track or other venue. This invaluable player in Mānoa’s basketball and 18 other intercollegiate athletic programs is quite happy behind the scenes, supporting UH Athletics and its student-athletes.
ʻAhahui Koa Ānuenue was founded under the leadership of the late Gov. John A. Burns in 1967 to be UH’s official athletics fundraising organization. For the first 35 years, AKA generated money for student-athlete scholarships. It enters its fourth decade of service five years into a plan for more aggressive and comprehensive fundraising, and the results have been as good as an Alika Smith jumper from 18 feet, drawing nothing but net. Since its reconstitution in 2002, AKA has increased contributions to the athletics department to nearly $3 million per year.
"Our goal is to enable the athletics department to be financially self-sufficient," said AKA President Vince Baldemor. "There is a very short list of programs across the country who can make that claim. It’s a lofty and aggressive goal, but if we work together we can accomplish it." Revitalization of the preferred seating program and an ambitious major gift campaign have contributed to the strides made. Nearly a decade ago, UH Athletics claimed just two endowments worth less than $100,000. The department now boasts 34 endowments drawing from a principal of nearly $3 million.
AKA provides seminars on planned giving and hosts mainland receptions and golf tournaments. (The next is Sept. 12 in Walnut, Calif.) Its new website provides a source of information on events and ways to donate.
With the recent hiring of Lorraine Leslie as director of booster clubs, AKA also focuses on booster clubs and their initiatives. "Lorraine has been a tremendous help getting through all the administrative wickets and giving us ideas. She’s been a godsend," says Men’s Volleyball Booster Club President Basil Sparlin. Funds raised by individual booster organizations help respective teams with expenses not covered by the university. Football boosters cover equipment purchases, training table meals and tutoring costs. The men’s volleyball club pays for computer equipment and summer school tuition. "We simply would not be able to run our program without our booster club," says Warrior Volleyball Head Coach Mike Wilton. "They do a tremendous job working to give us the financial support we need to purchase necessities. I cannot say enough about how important to our success they are."
Like the booster clubs, AKA depends on volunteers. "Our growth has been possible because of our dedicated volunteer board of directors," Baldemor says. "Without leaders like Bert T. Kobayashi Jr., Don Murphy and others, none of this would be possible. They give of their heart, their time and their wallet to enable our student-athletes and teams to take it to the next level."
Visit ʻAhahui Koa Ānuenue online.
Information on individual Rainbow Warrior and Wahine sports booster clubs are listed under the "team/program support" link.
Nā Koa (football), Tony Guerrero, President
Wahine Basketball Booster Club, Natalie Webb, President
Wahine Volleyball Booster Club, Stanley Ching, President
Men’s Volleyball Booster Club, Basil Sparlin, President
Grand Slam Club (baseball), Warren Haruki, President
Hui Kākoʻo Pāʻani Pohili (softball), Dee Wisneski, Representative