October 02, 2013 - After being apart of the Oxford Wildcat Athletic Boosters for the past 10 years, President J.R. Lafnear is stepping down.
Booster volunteers Beth Grubb and Greg Williams are two of many who work the concession stand at Friday night football games. Photo by Dan Shriner. (click for larger version)
Taking his place is current Vice President Mark Stepek.
"I don't have a connection to the younger kids and the sports teams that I had when I started. It's hard for me to recruit volunteers and what have you. Ten years is long enough," Lafnear said. "Mark's come aboard for about two years now and has done a great job and is excited to takeover. He has a younger daughter and son in the sports programs. It's time to make a change and we're excited to get that done."
Stepek was a little reluctant at first to join the boosters, but when he saw the excitement from other members, it grew on him. One thing is for sure, he has always had a passion for watching the Wildcats play.
"I've loved Oxford sports," he said. "Even before my kids were in sports, I went to the sporting events. It's just the way this town is."
After talking to Lafnear about who he knew or didn't know, Stepek and Lafnear realized a need for some new members.
"We need to get new blood in and we need to invigorate the group. We play a vital role in Oxford sports where we are a no-pay-to-play school. Most of the schools in the OAA, you got to pay if you want to play," Stepek said. "We do a lot of fund-raising and give to each of the teams whenever people make requests for certain things and that helps the sports budget."
Stepek is hoping to take all those things "to the next level."
"I have been leader of organizations my entire life. I did the Cubs Scout thing (as) Scout Master, coached baseball and football," he said. "I realize it's always a small group of people that makes things happen."
"Eighty percent of what gets done is by 20 percent of the people," he added. "Movers and shakers gravitate to movers and shakers."
Some of things the boosters have done, which hasn't necessarily received a lot of credit, noted Lafnear, includes helping fund the beginnings of the bowling, swim and lacrosse teams. The boosters have also played an integral part in helping buy the last two sets of uniforms for the hockey team, $8,000 worth of helmets for the football team and contributed $15,000 toward the blue turf.
Other things include buying new lane markers for the swimming pool, sponsoring concussion testing for the athletes, which they believe is "very important," setting up and sponsoring the Athletic Awards Banquet and setting up the Bud Rowley Scholarship Fund.
"If the boosters weren't there, a lot of things people take for granted would disappear," Lafnear said. "We need volunteers, we need bodies, we need that group of 20 percent movers and shakers from the younger kids. Seventh to ninth grade is the perfect wheel."
"You don't have to be a sucker like me and be in it for 10 years," he continued. "If you can come in for two or three years and contribute that's awesome."
Stepek agreed, but noted that being a member of boosters is being a "volunteer from a true volunteer position."
"A volunteer doesn't ask for a 'thank you.' They get them, but it's not because they want them," he explained. "They do it because they want to help and that's the kind of people I want in here."
Currently, the boosters have a core group of about six to eight people. Stepek said he'd like to see that core grow to about 15 to 20 people.
"We have one meeting a month on the first Monday at 7 p.m. in the media center or cafeteria at the high school," he said. "Anybody can just show up and we would welcome them with open arms."
Boosters have also had great support from the local business community such as Johnston Photography, Jet's Pizza, and Oxford Hardware.
"Every Monday, Jet's donates a percentage of their proceeds to us," Stepek said.
While Oxford is a "Friday Night Lights" kind of town, Stepek doesn't feel alumni come back, even for homecoming, which he would like to see change.
"I want to try and invigorate people to come back," he said. "Maybe have a golf outing that weekend or pancake breakfast for Alumni, something to try and get the feel of homecoming back."
Although Lafnear is stepping down from his position, he certainly isn't walking away. He will be "watching from the wings."
"Yeah, I'm not going to disappear. I'm going to stay involved in the concessions and be a voice (to) bounce things off of and help whenever they need help," he said. "Be there if they need anything and carry on the traditions that some of the past booster members have started."
Looking back on his 10 years in Booster Club, Lafnear wanted to give a "thank you" to anyone who had worked a concession stand, an event or contributed to boosters in anyway.
"I've met a lot of super, super people and I've seen some people who shouldn't be out there (working) because physical limitations and they've been out there busting their butts. I've seen people just give their heart and soul and I appreciate everything they did," he said. "I know we have some great people in this town that will come aboard and help Mark out and the group. I'm looking forward to watching from the background and seeing where Mark takes this thing."
"One of the reasons that I feel very comfortable stepping down is I have a lot of confidence in the group that's there and the leadership Mark is going to provide them," Lafnear added. "I wouldn't leave if I didn't think they were in great hands."
For more information on the boosters or to contact Lafnear or Stepek visit www.oxfordboosters.com
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.