Cross country car wash raises funds for teams in the future

Nathan Domenighini
Morton High School cross country team freshman Walter Jankowski, right, and sophomore Isaac Ackerman work together to scrub the outside of a car to raise seed money for a new endowment fund with the Morton Community Foundation.

The Morton High School cross country team got their feet wet Wednesday afternoon, washing cars at JH Car Wash in Morton to raise money for a new endowment fund with the Morton Community Foundation.

The response was overwhelming — more than 50 cars pulled in for a wash, some paying extra to support the cross country team’s fundraiser, said the team’s coach, Joel Zehr.

Publicity was the key for the team, which made efforts to let the community know about its mission by delivering flyers to houses while running conditioning routes in Morton.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the team,” second-year coach Zehr said.

Members of the cross country team are setting up an endowment fund to help pay for future runner’s needs, including purchasing a tent, warm-up suits and other equipment the team will need during competitive events, as well as for practice.

“It’s for team members down the road,” Zehr said. “Hopefully, this is something that can continue for other programs.”

Zehr said there is no better group of runners than those who helped during the car wash that day.

“They’re dedicated,” he said. “They know what hard work is. They’ll see the fruits of this labor years and years down the road.”

Members of the Morton Community Foundation board approached the team with the idea to begin an endowment fund, Zehr said. JH Car Wash owner Tom Harper mentioned he wanted to do something that could help the group raise funds.

“Typically, the football and baseball teams get more money than the cross country team,” Harper said.

For teams with smaller fundraising initiatives, an endowment fund makes sense, he added.

“That’s what’s good about endowment funds — they’ll always have money,” Harper said.

Harper said he wants to open his facility for similar fundraisers once a year.

“The community has been so good to us,” he said, adding the business has been around since 1979.

“I like helping,” he added. “Especially with such a great group of kids. They’re very polite.”

MCF executive director Scott Witzig said Harper approached the foundation looking for a way to help.

“(Harper) did a really neat thing by helping out a lot of different people in one generous effort,” Witzig said. “He wanted to help the community foundation start more endowment funds, so he chose to do this project through the foundation.”

“He wanted to also help an organization at the school that is underfunded, so we chose the cross country team,” he added. “By helping them with seed money to start an endowment fund, he is helping teach kids the value of working today for a future benefit.”

The current members of the team will unlikely see any money from the new fund. Grants cannot be awarded until the fund reaches $5,000. But, Witzig said once it reaches that point, hundreds and possibly thousands of students will benefit from grants awarded through the endowment fund in the future.

Endowment funds through the MCF can be beneficial to organizations with smaller fundraising programs, he said.

“An endowment fund for a school group can ultimately help reduce or eliminate the need for selling candy, fruit, wreaths and cookie dough to raise money,” he said. “Today’s culture is one of immediate gratification. It’s really neat to see the cross country team, today, do something so good to benefit teams in the future.”

“I think, some day, parents and coaches of the MHS cross country team are going to look back and say, ‘Wow, I’m glad coach Zehr and those kids started this fund,”’ he added. 

Now that the fund has been established with seed money from Wednesday’s car wash, donors can give gifts of support anytime. Checks can be made out to the MCF with a memo of “Cross Country Endowment Fund.”