Holly Brady (from left), Rob Baty, Isabel Schultz and Julie Kayaian at Boosterpalooza on Saturday, Sept. 10. Brady, Baty and Kayaian are Co-Presidents of the Booster Club. Schultz is Vice President. Credit: Richard Cahan

After hosting events online and raising money for athletics and activities remotely for more than two years, the Evanston Township High School Booster Club’s signature fundraiser, Boosterpalooza, will be at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10 at the Autobarn Nissan of Evanston.

Each year, the club allocates about $100,000 for athletics, fine arts and clubs at the high school by holding fundraisers like Boosterpalooza, selling concessions at football and basketball games and collecting individual donations, said Vice President Isabel Schultz, the parent of an ETHS graduate and a current sophomore.

What makes the ETHS Booster Club unique, though, is that it is the only high school boosters organization in the Central Suburban League that provides financial support to activities and clubs instead of just sports teams.

In the spring of 2021, the group donated five robot cars and two gear webcams to ETHS’ Youth Technology Corps club.

The Wildkit Marching Band concludes its performance at Boosterpalooza on Saturday, Sept. 10. “Boosters touch most kids — from the Dungeons and Dragons Club to gaming clubs to the Japanese Tea Club to the football team,” said Julie Kayaian, co-president. Credit: Richard Cahan

“That’s pretty unique about what we do, and it’s pretty important for parents to know because, of course, we want to reach as many kids and support as many students as possible and be as equitable as possible,” Schultz said. “Students are obviously involved in a number of different areas. They’re not necessarily just athletes. They might be in the band, or they might be just passionate about the DJ Club or the Dungeons and Dragons Club, and we support all of those. So that’s really important to us.”

Similar to the way the ETHS Foundation has over recent years provided financial support for new academic initiatives in workforce development and literacy, the Booster Club also pays primarily for new equipment or experiences that the school budget cannot cover with taxpayer dollars. The Boosters would not pay for a team’s uniforms, for example, but it could replace aging equipment or something like a scoreboard system, Schultz said.

The ETHS Marching Band performs at the 2019 Boosterpalooza. Credit: ETHS Booster Club

In the 2021-22 year, the Boosters distributed more than $26,000 for clubs and activities, $32,000 for sports and $30,000 for fine arts. The Boosters has an allocations committee that fields requests for new projects or initiatives from department heads and individual coaches or club leaders, and then volunteers on the committee to evenly disseminate funds.

Over the last two years, the group held Boosterpalooza online along with other events, and it raised over $90,000 last year, even without in-person fundraisers or selling concessions at basketball games. But Schultz said she and the other booster volunteers are excited for an opportunity to connect with teachers, staff, administrators, parents and families at Saturday’s event again.

Plus, Saturday really offers the first chance for many families and parents to show ETHS pride as they start a new school year and set the tone for more events to come, according to Schultz.

With financial support from the Booster Club, ETHS students participated in a Black History Month literacy program where they donated books to District 65 students and read with them. Credit: ETHS Booster Club

“Everyone’s craving human interaction in a place that we all love and that feels comfortable and familiar,” Schultz said. “There’s a lot of ETHS pride and a lot of ETHS alums as well. A lot of parents come back and raise their children in Evanston, so it’s just a really feel-good event.”

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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