Daily News photo/JOHN EBY Tracy Hertsel accepts a $9,000 check from Robert Saxton, who donated to Cassopolis Public Schools to offset athletic fees for students.CASSOPOLIS — Once Robert Saxton pledged $9,000 of $18,000 needed to drop a new pay-to-play sports fee for Cassopolis schools — and issued a challenge to the community to match his donation — others have stepped forward.

Archived Story

Donations meet athletic fees

Published 10:15pm Tuesday, July 17, 2012

CASSOPOLIS — Once Robert Saxton pledged $9,000 of $18,000 needed to drop a new pay-to-play sports fee for Cassopolis schools — and issued a challenge to the community to match his donation — others have stepped forward.

Enough funds have been raised to drop the $100 annual fee for the coming school year.

Among those who stepped forward ranged from Cassopolis Family Clinic’s $3,000 to $355 by Nancy Wilson who cooked for the Class of 1957 reunion, where students helped serve. Supt. Tracy Hertsel expects no fee will be necessary because the goal is nearly surpassed with funds still flowing in.

“I thank Mr. Saxton for stepping up,” Hertsel said, “and challenging the community. A lot of our parents are really pulling together right now to get it done for the kids.”

“When we moved to Cassopolis,” Saxton told the school board July 16, “the downtown was booming, there were people everywhere and businesses all over the place. School sporting events were standing-room-only. Parents really supported the kids and athletic programs. I miss those days.”

Saxton grew up on the south side of Chicago in a neighborhood “most people stayed clear of and avoided at all costs.”

Saxton  said he loved it so much here on visits, he moved his family to Cassopolis 38 years ago.

Saxton taught boxing and transitioned into Little League, basketball and football with community leaders of the day — Dan Covey, Dan Herman and  Richard Lee.

“I see us at a point right now where we need to get our parents back involved,” Saxton said. “It is the responsibility of the parents and even the community to get the most out of our kids and give them the encouragement to do their very, very best. I get a little choked up when I go into stores and mostly see middle-aged and seniors. You don’t see kids like you used to. We lose population every time we have graduation. They have to leave to find jobs. We need to step up and do what’s necessary to get this town going.

“If we lost the athletic program,” said Saxton, who worked in Elkhart, “we could lose the school. If we lose the school, the town will die. Granger didn’t get that way (by accident). It got like that because of Penn High School.

People wanted to bring their kids there to play sports and to get a good education. The school brought people and the people brought business. I think we’re long past the point where we rely on people here to support all of the businesses in town.

“I didn’t have a problem with our kids paying to play,” he said, “because everybody else has all along. Down in Columbus, where my brother lives, they pay about $200 per sport. But I know how difficult it is for some parents now. I wanted to do whatever I could because didn’t want to see us losing kids to other areas.”
Saxton hoped his example inspired others, such as churches.

“No one has to equal what I did,” Saxton said, “but do something. There are so many things we can do to better this community. I don’t want Cass to sit on two highways, but people pass through to get from one point to another. Lunker’s is known all over the country.

“We’ve got to attract attention and give people a reason to stop. If we come together and brainstorm, we can bring money instead of losing tax dollars that could help support the school every time someone moves away.

I’m not doing what I’m doing for recognition or prestige, but to encourage others to step up because I love this community.”

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