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The Weber State University Wildcat Club brought more than 500 people together Friday night for its annual ‘Cat Bash at the Ogden Eccles Conference Center to support athletic scholarships.
With approximately 300 student athletes at WSU benefiting and receiving some form of scholarship from the ‘Cat Bash, many at the event said there is no place they would rather be.
“The ‘Cat Bash is a great event, and the most important thing is it helps to support the scholarships for student athletes,” said WSU President Charles Wight. “It’s about having the community come together and support the athletes through donations to support scholarships.”
WSU Athletics director Jerry Bovee said all the money earned during the ‘Cat Bash goes directly into the scholarship program. “We have to push to really raise that bar on scholarship funding. This is a great event for that.”
Bovee said it takes a lot of hard work from the board to find scholarship money for all the athletes. Some support comes from student fees, but the program has to raise the rest, and it can be a hefty bill.
“We have over 300 student athletes, so when you consider what it takes to get all of them in, and with what the NCAA allows us for scholarships, it takes a lot,” Bovee said. “It includes their tuition, books and fees, housing for some, and then a small stipend because they cannot work while they are representing the university as a student athlete.”
This year’s presenting sponsor was Young Automotive Group. Table sponsors included Cutrubus Automotive Group, Bank of Utah, America First Credit Union, Big-D Construction, the McKay-Dee Foundation and Swire Coca Cola.
“There are so many good people involved in making this happen that are not listed in the program. You can’t do this overnight,” said Wildcat Club President Robert Gale. “It’s a labor of love. Many of these individuals don’t have anything to do with student athletes, so it’s amazing that they come and give their time and money. It is huge.”
Gale made the joke that planning for next year’s event starts Monday, but that is the club’s approach to make sure it has the best event possible and is able to bring out the most people — and not just for their donations, but to see what the ‘Cat Bash is all about.
“I think you heard them (the student athletes) earlier when they said you don’t have to come here and donate, but please know how much we appreciate it,” Gale said. “They get to see who is making the donations and, even more important, the people making the donations get to see the quality of people they are helping out. It’s priceless and very special.”
The evening began with a silent auction. Hundreds of baskets lined the tables, filled with an array of items from coolers with sports drinks and purple high-top tennis shoes to Ogden Marathon entries and elaborate vacations. Guests mingled from table to table, scoping out their perfect basket.
Vicki Mager, auction chair for the Wildcat Club since 2007, said she loves her position and being part of something that helps the community and her family.
“My granddaughter plays soccer here (at WSU) right now, and my husband played football in 1971, so we’ve just been big supports the whole time. It’s a great opportunity to give back.”
Mager said that, because of the efforts of all the Wildcat Club board members, it usually only takes her team about a month to put all the baskets together.
“We have 20 board members and they all go out to solicit items, so that makes it easier, plus you just have a lot of support, and others who support will bring in their own basket,” she said.
Student athletes from every WSU sport were at the event to show their school pride and help wherever they were needed. Men’s basketball players sold $25 wristbands for the “head or tails” game played later in the evening. Women’s basketball players checked coats and directed guests to registration. Women’s golf players helped guests find their seats, and many just took the opportunity to talk to the individuals making their scholarships possible.
WSU senior Annika Karlsen, a member of the women’s tennis team, has been involved in the ‘Cat Bash for four years and said she enjoys every minute of it.
“I think it’s great. I’m really thankful we have people to support our athletics department and are willing to come out here and have a good night and just support us in general.”
After the silent auction, guests sat down for a sirloin and trout dinner. While they were interacting with other members at their tables, the live auction began.
The crowd got lively bidding on items such as the Miller Time Man Cave, which brought in more than $1,000 bid and included a refrigerator, pub table with two bar stools, a mirror and a neon sign, donated by Miller Lite Golden Beverage.
Some other items featured during the live auction were a dinner with WSU coach Randy Rahe, donated by Laura and Randy Rahe, Steve Ballard and Sonora Grill; a Solomon ski package, donated by Mike Leavitt and Swire Coca Cola; Lasik Eye Surgery, donated by Standard Optical President Steve Schubach and Vice President Aaron Schubach; and a Meadows Island Park getaway, donated by Comfort Suites, Homer and Phidia Cutrubus, Barry Eldredge and Clayton Wyman.
WSU junior and basketball guard/forward Royce Williams said he enjoys participating in the ‘Cat Bash and coming out to see all the support he and his fellow athletes have from the community.
“This is my second year doing it, and last year it was great,” he said. “We get to come out, help out and just show our faces so we can get some support. It’s amazing. Getting a scholarship is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Coach Rahe is a wonderful coach. The coach and staffs are really great and just made me feel welcome and want to come here.”
As the evening came to a close, almost everyone left with their arms full and smiles on their faces. Greg Roper from Bank of Utah said the bank purchases a table every year to support WSU Athletics and will anticipate next year’s ‘Cat Bash all year long.
“It’s great. I love giving back to the community; I’m a big supporter of the community here and Weber State does great,” Roper said. “We personally have season passes to many sports, and we just love bringing out the kids, and then being able to do this as well and support the athletes is just a great thing.”
Bovee said that, with the tables and seats purchased, the earlier numbers were showing close to $40,000, and if the Wildcat Club could raise upward of $50,000-$70,000 by the end of the evening after all the expenses are paid, then it was a successful event.
“It really hits two points,” Bovee said. “It hits the community piece where we can bring the community together for a fun evening, and the more we touch points and get with everyone, the better it will be. The more points we touch, the closer they’re going to feel, and the affinity they feel for Weber State is a good thing. We start off with a video that shows what it’s really about and then ask them to open up their wallets, and they always respond. This is a great community to live in.”