Northeast AZ alumni chapter values tradition

Granted, the White Mountain Sun Devil Club and Alumni Chapter is mostly known these days for its fundraising efforts to renovate Camp Tontozona. Yet, some of this group's individuals have already been supporting Arizona State for several decades. Devils Digest talked to the chapter's president, Ted Cesarano, about his group's efforts and their signature scholarship fundraising event next month.

The White Mountain Alumni Chapter is one the youngest in the Arizona State community, as it was founded just six years ago. A few years later, a Sun Devil Club chapter was formed as well there in an effort to bring the two entities together to the northeastern part of the state.

"We saw an opportunity to not only fund scholarships on the alumni chapter side," Cesarano explained, "but also help athletics with the Sun Devil Club on the other side. Both of them needed attention in this part of the state."

The White Mountain Sun Devil Club and Alumni Chapter now represents over 10,000 ASU Alumni and Sun Devil Club members in Northeastern Arizona. They have committed $100,000 to the Sun Devil Legacy Program (geared towards Sun Devil Women's sports), $100,000 to White Mountain Alumni Chapter Endowment Scholarship Program for White Mountain Students and $44,000 annually to individual White Mountains Student's Scholarships over a four-year period.

"We raise the scholarships for high school kids in the White Mountains," Cesarano commented, "and that includes the communities of Heber up to Snowflake, up to St. John's, over to Springerville, and we also include the Apache reservation. We also obviously include Pinetop and Show Low.

"Our alumni chapter goes into Payson and Globe and we're planning this next year to include kids from those towns into our high school scholarship program. It's a natural concept for us because we saw both Payson and Globe as the gateway to the White Mountains for both ends of the state. Payson being in the Camp Tontozona area is another prefect reason to include them. "

This region was historically known as a stronghold of support for the University of Arizona, but Cesarano indicated that a major shift in this aspect has been taken place over the last several years.

"To be honest with you this area has rolled over and really is Sun Devil country now," Cesarano remarked. "It's interesting how much this shift has bothered the U of A folks here. We have banners (promoting the chapter's fundraising June event) all over the highway from Show Low to Pinetop and they have to look at it for about 90 days. They probably hate it because they thought they owned the White Mountains.

"Not all of our chapter members of ASU alums. Some are just ASU fans and then some people here are just interested in helping out with our scholarship program. We also do have some U of A people who like what we are doing and they join us to try and raise money for scholarships."

The community in this part of Arizona, even though it formally organized only in 2006 was no stranger to supporting the university. The Steak Fry, their signature fundraising event took place for the first time some 30 years ago (organized back then by the main ASU Alumni office in Tempe), but lack of support from the athletic department around the turn of the century put that event on hiatus for five years.

"Our Steak Fry event theme has always been ‘The Tradition Continues.' We are all about tradition," Cesarano said, "and we wanted to revive that tradition."

Mission accomplished.

The Steak Fry, which raises approximately 90 percent of the scholarship funds, event was brought back in 2007, and coincided with the chapter's establishment that year. These days the event is running stronger than ever as the Steak Fry "reinvented itself" and is now the highlight of a weekend full of activities.

"Five years ago we were hoping that 100 people would show up for the Steak Fry," Cesarano recalled. "We actually ended up having 325 people and were able to raise $20,000 for scholarships. From that point on we added the golf tournament on Saturday afternoon before the Steak Fry.

"This year we expanded the event to two days. It starts on June 22nd where we have another golf tournament in the afternoon, in a horse race format with ASU coaches (highlighted by Todd Graham) and former players (highlighted by Randall McDaniel) paired up with Sun Devil fans. That evening we'll have what we call a Heritage Cocktail Party. It's going to be like the Bird's Nest venue you see at the Phoenix Open with live music with food and drinks, and all the coaches and former players that were at the golf tournament will be there. It's going to be a big social event.

While Saturday's Golf Tournament is sold out, Sun Devil fans can play golf next door at the Pinetop Lakes Country Club and still return to Pinetop Country Club for the Steak Fry at 6 pm that evening. That event will be emceed by (Phoenix media personality) Brad Cesmat who will have a panel discussion with some of the coaches and former players in attendance. We also have a silent auction that night."

As mentioned, the White Mountain Sun Devil Club and Alumni Chapter has become prominent in ASU athletic news this week, as they announced that they have committed to match donations to the Return to Camp T program, up to $65,000, to help Sun Devil Football spend August 14-18, 2012 at the famous preseason Camp.

Every dollar donated to the Return to Camp T program, beginning Wednesday, May 2nd, will be matched by the White Mountain Sun Devil Club and Alumni Chapter, effectively doubling every contribution.

Announced on April 19th, the Return to Camp T program has already raised close to $40,000 of the $150,000 goal that has to be met prior to the June 1st deadline.

"Just like our Steak Fry, we are all about continuing tradition," Cesarano said. "We thought that Camp T is a tradition that needed to be continued. Just like our Steak Fry, it died for a period of time and we thought it had to be re-started and re-united with what has gone on in the past.

"So our board decided that it wanted to support the return to Camp T program. A lot of former football players talk about Camp T being a lifelong memory. They may have hated it at the time they went through it but later on learned to love it. So that really ignited us and we wanted to do this for the football program and those former players."

For all of the details on the Steak Fry and the other events held on June 22-23 please Click here or call Linda Croteau at 928-369-0561.

Find the White Mountain Sun Devil Club & Alumni Chapter on Facebook.

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