Kelsey Emme is a freshman from Piedmont, South Dakota. She’s bubbly, outgoing and she’s likely a better shot than you. Emme is an up and coming member of MSU’s Rifle team; and much like another Racer team you may have heard of, she attended this year’s NCAA tournament in her sport, competitive shooting. She narrowly missed the finals, landing only four points short.
But unlike the Murray State basketball team, the rifle team struggles to keep itself funded.
“Oh yeah, rifle is a very expensive sport.”
A collegiate shooter typically competes with their small bore rifles or air guns. And they can run in excess of $3,500.
“And there’s also a lot of little things, equipment and sometimes we get a suit or so and that’s like two grand… “
To put that in perspective, the average cost to outfit an MSU football player , pads and all is around 600 dollars. And for rifle there is the ever-present need for lead and brass. The rifle team has been funded to cover all its expenses, but in this economy everyone is looking for ways to boost their coffers, and two former Murray Rifle teammates found an almost “too good to be true” option. Bill Beard and Ernie Vande Zande, backed by generations of former members discovered an opportunity through the Scholastic Shooting Trust and the Midway Foundation. The two groups along with their Founders, Larry and Brenda Potterfield would match donations and an unprecedented level. Scholastic Shooting Trust Director Dick Leaper:
“So last year, any school who would send in a donation the founders would match it six to one.”
So for one hundred dollars donated the organizations added six hundred dollars. That offer though, only lasted two months. So, Beard and Vande Zande made a list of former members of the Murray rifle team, and called each one to inform them of the opportunity. And on it went, everyday for two months, Ernie and Bill presented their case to prospective donors. Ernie Vande Zande…
“It was a long and cumbersome effort but a work of love. It was just amazing how many past members of the shooting team had the same feeling that Bill and I did. “
As the months progressed, the two began seeing results; A hundred dollar check here, 500 there. As the money came Beard asked Vande Zande how much they’d finally be able to offer the rifle team.
“And I said well, I think we may get maybe a total of $10,000. And Ernie said, I don’t know, if we raise a total of $2,000 more I think we’ll be doing good.”
In a few weeks they blew by both guesses. And the totals kept growing. $15,000, then 20 then 30. Finally, December 31st came and the two found out in all, 78 former shooters, alums, and even former competitors donated $50,000. When paired with the match, the total staggered Ernie Vande Zande:
“We ended up with $343,300. We were blown away believe me…it was great”.
This money is a permanent endowed trust in the name of the Murray State Rifle Team. Beard and Vande Zande are still raising money but even if they never add another dime, rifle team coaches will have access to nearly $18,000 per year to keep the racers like Kelsey Emme shooting.