Dollars for Scholars supporters enjoy the big game

VERO BEACH — The Dollars for Scholars Football Classic has taken off in ways the organization couldn’t have foreseen when it created the fundraiser five years ago.  The original concept was to have the then untested rivalry between the Vero Beach and Sebastian River High Schools put to the test with a pre-season scrimmage.  DFS supporters would also attend a small pre-game VIP Barbeque dinner.  

Both the game and the pre-game Bono’s BBQ have sustained significant growth and standing.  This year’s game between the Vero Beach Fighting Indians and the Sebastian River Sharks was sanctioned as the first of the regular season, and the BBQ was completely sold-out with 175 guests.

“It keeps growing,” said Camilla Wainright, DFS Executive Director.  “We had to cap the number, because we wanted it to be comfortable under the tent.”

The tent is located in the shadow of the east end goal post, and guests (the brave ones) line their chairs along the end zone.  “If a football comes flying through – heads up!” said Wainright, who added that they expected 7,000 fans to pack the stands.

Long-time supporters of Dollars for Scholars, Barbara and Gordon Mann, who will celebrate their 60th Anniversary this December, were thoroughly enjoying their first time at the event, dining with Bob Strawser and DFS board member Mary Ellen Strawser and looking forward to the game.

While the DFS tent is officially neutral territory, there appeared to be a preponderance of VBHS enthusiasts, including the Ferrell and Moore families whose sons Todd, Jr. and Connor were playing in the game.  The lovely Lee Moore was sporting a big photo button of her son in his #51 jersey.

Die-hard Fighting Indian fans Ouida Wyatt and Harriett Yemm, both adorned with intricate hand-made Indian-head mascot earrings, were joined by Elizabeth Graves Bass, a VBHS cheerleader back in the day.  Wyatt, a former principal at what is now Gifford Middle School, has been cheering on her team for the past 54 years.  She eventually met Yemm and the two rarely miss a game.

Yemm’s husband Dick officiates on the field.  “I had to sit at the games by myself,” said Yemm. “I was basically a football widow but then I met Ouida.”

In another example of staying power, Mark Ashdown has served on the DFS board since 1983.

“He’s been on for 980 years,” quipped fellow board member Gaye Ludwig.

“So many board members have been involved for so many years; they enjoy doing it,” said Ashdown.

The scholarships distributed by DFS, to date a whopping $7.1 million-plus distributed to approximately 2,500 college bound students, are based on financial need, desire and the ability to succeed in college.  Because of his training as a financial advisor, Ashdown was originally tagged to help in the review process and has stayed with the organization ever since.

Board members interview every applicant who applies.  “It’s a way for board members to get to know the kids and make sure they have the focus and motivation.” said Ludwig.  “The need is growing phenomenally.”

They explained that now DFS now helps many middle income families who don’t qualify for government assistance.

Proud father Todd Fennell, Sr. was looking forward to the game, and possibly reliving some of his own glory days as a VBHS quarterback.  His son Todd, Jr. was the starting quarterback for the Vero team.

When asked who he thought would win, he smiled and said, “There are a lot of good players on both sides.  It will be a close game with everyone playing their hearts out, but I think the Big Red’s going to win.”

And, he was right; the Fighting Indians broke the two-two tie of the past four years, winning the first regular season game against the Sharks, 28-10.  The real winners will be this year’s crop of deserving scholarship students, who will walk off with their own all-important trophy. {igallery 256}

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