MICHIGAN CITY — A city's identity is often linked to how its high school is viewed, both in town and around the area.
The Michigan City High School Booster Club is doing what it can to help improve that image.
"The only way we're going to succeed is to change the tide of City pride, to get people to buy in so we can increase that pride and keep moving Michigan City forward," said Stephanie Thomas, noting how M.C. still has its Rogers and Elston factions nearly 25 years after the former high schools consolidated. "We need to change the community's perception, not just in Michigan City, but the greater Duneland Conference, and the only way we can do it is to change how present ourselves."
Coincidentally, Thomas is an Elston grad and fellow booster Kris Halfacre went to Rogers, though they've melded their particular areas of interest and expertise to help bolster the organization, which has doubled in membership to 350 in the last two years.
"We want to give the kids the opportunity to have what we had," Thomas said. "These kids have four years to live out their passions and let's let them live their passions by supporting them. We've got great student-athletes. They deserve every chance to be the best they can be and if we can play a small part in that, let's do it."
The booster club works in concert with the athletics department, but is an independent entity. While the athletics department functions in large part on revenues generated by ticket sales, the booster club's income comes from various fund-raising endeavors — memberships, 50-50 raffles at home football and basketball games and corporate sponsorships chief among them.
"They're just trying to stay above ground," Thomas said. "Athletics is almost 100 percent self-funded. The money's just not there. They live and die by football and basketball. We tell them, let us help."
A large facet of the booster club's support to the teams comes in the purchasing of equipment.
"Two years ago, the baseball team had five helmets," Thomas said. "Kids are coming off the field handing their helmet to another kid. That's gross. We bought them 35 helmets."
Contributions go across the board from the purchase of volleyballs and girls basketballs to indoor soccer nets, an indoor throwing circle for track and a tennis ball hopper.
"We talk to all the teams. We ask them what they need," Thomas said. "Tell us what your priorities are we'll try to help."
Additionally, the club covers all expenses for concussion testing and if a team/athlete advances to semistate or state, they help defray those costs.
"Obviously, there's not a lot we can do if it's the football team," Thomas said. "It's easier if it's an individual sport like golf or track."
One of the perks of membership is the chance for a parent's child to qualify for a booster club scholarship. Eight graduates have been honored and supported that way. Participation also includes a $20 discount card and $5 honors off a season athletics pass. The club held its first membership appreciation night last winter during the basketball games with La Porte.
At a higher level, businesses can lend support through the purchase of advertising in the sports programs and through corporate sponsorship.
"People have been very receptive," Thomas said.
The boosters' membership goal is to reach 500.
"We always need new eyes, new thoughts," Thomas said.
Anyone interested can go to the Michigan City High School Booster Club page on Facebook, which is also linked to its Twitter account, for more information, or by contacting the athletics office. Members are also easy to find at home football and basketball games, where the club always has a table for selling shirts and other Wolves athletics items outside the field/court.