Fast forward to this year, and the differences in the way these, and other fund-raising events, are run is evident. An infusion of new people in both the MAC and the athletic department staff, teamed with the experience of veteran members, has resulted in a more exciting, and more vibrant, series of events.
We've already detailed the dinner portion of the event in a previous article, but there was even more to the Charleston event than appeared in that space.
First off, the idea to bring the Mountaineer FanFest to the Civic Center was a resounding success. First and foremost, it was a great event for kids, as they had the chance to run and play with WVU athletes. How many times do you get a chance to shoot some hoops with the Big East women's Freshman of the year? Score goals against not one, but two women's soccer All-Americans? Get shooting tips from a men's player, or shake hands and rub elbows (fortunately, not on the mats) with a two-time NCAA wrestling champion?
Second, it gave WVU fans (kids and adults alike) a chance to meet the players and coaches they cheer for as people, not just as a distant figure in a uniform. That personal connection, however brief, can make for some very strong bonds, especially in youngsters looking for role models to emulate. (As a side note, every person that has taken Rasheed Marshall to task for not meeting their expectations should get the chance to meet him. Watching Rasheed talk to people, sign autographs with a broken thumb, and interact with everyone was an impressive sight.)
One other item that stood out was the freebies that attendees at the dinner received. In addition to raffles of football and basketball tickets, golf bags and other prizes, everyone at the dinner received a commemorative glass with the flying WVU logo and the dinner information, a blinking WVU log pin, and a WVU hat with the "old school" football logo. In addition, one member at each table went away with a WVU candle.
Although those types of giveaways aren't overly expensive, the fact that the MAC and the volunteers who put on the dinner procured such items is a nice way of saying "thank you". Most people who donate money and time aren't looking for a big payback in terms of material items, but receiving some nice take home items is a great move on the part of the organizers.
These kinds of opportunities are things that build the Mountaineer fans of the future, and were sorely needed. Hopefully, they can continue, and perhaps be expanded to other areas of the state.