Sports programs at Sebastian High spared with donation from hospital

SEBASTIAN — Teams that had been on the proverbial chopping block at Sebastian River High School have been spared thanks to a $5,000 donation from Sebastian River Medical Center that was presented to the school Thursday morning.

With the donation, eight teams will be allowed to continue to compete.

“I would be less than honest if I didn’t say I got a little teary-eyed,” said Athletic Director Michael Stutzke of when he found out the hospital was making the donation.

Daisy Knowles, director of public relations for the hospital, said that Sebastian River Medical Center and the high school have had a long-standing relationship dating back to when the school opened.

“We want to invest in our youth,” Knowles said, helping them to get active and stay active.

Knowles added that when hospital leaders heard that several athletic programs could be cut due to budget constraints, they decided to help.

“It’s a big relief,” said Bowling Coach Brian Kerekes, who also teaches math at the high school.

He said that now that funding has been secured, he and his 15-member team can focus on bowling.

Kerekes said that the team had been working on fund-raisers and continued to operating on the hope that they would raise enough money to keep the team going.

“We’re overjoyed and thankful,” he said.

Boys Cross-Country Coach Eric Perez, too, said he is thankful for the donation.

“It’s a tremendous help,” he said, adding that the money would be used for coaches’ pay and transportation.

Ever since he had heard that his team and seven others could be cut if they didn’t raise enough money, Perez said he tried not to think about it.

“They were upset,” Perez said of his team’s members, noting that many of them had been conditioning during the summer to be in top running shape for the fall season.

Instead of dwelling on the worst-case scenario, Perez said he kept focused on keeping his runners focused on running and decided to keep operating until someone told him to stop.

“They’re a great bunch of boys,” he said.

Stutzke said that it was difficult for him to tell the teams that if they didn’t raise enough money to cover their remaining expenses, they would have to be cut.

Along with boys cross-country and bowling, the other teams that faced being cut included girls cross-country, girls rugby, boys and girls lacrosse, girls weightlifting, and competitive cheering.

And even with the generous donation from Sebastian River Medical Center, Stutzke warned the teams could be in trouble again next year if he gets word again from the school district that they have to trim the budget even more.

“We’re certainly not out of the woods,” Stutzke said, adding that the teams now have a year to prepare for the next budget cycle.

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