Nearly a year after MaryAnne Cowan first considered the daunting dollar signs in front of Pacific Rim Bowl XIII she can finally breath a sigh of relief. The money — about $60,000 in the general fund — is nearly in hand and in about four months the Ashland High football team will board a plane bound for Osaka, Japan.
As the PRB fundraising committee chairperson, Cowan oversaw the massive fundraising effort required to fly 40 to 44 players and seven coaches to Japan for a weeklong cultural immersion — the trip includes a ride on a bullet train and a day at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park — that culminates with the game itself, which is played every two years at alternating sites.
To cover the costs, the Grizzlies pumped iron in a lift-a-thon, sold coupons for Ashland businesses, waited on tables during an auction night, rented out their muscles for odd jobs like mowing lawns and washing cars, hosted a test-drive day at Butler Ford, posed for a silly photo that miraculously landed an $8,000 grand prize and served patrons during bingo night.
All that hard work has brought Cowan and company within $8,000 of meeting their goal, and they plan on filling the remaining gap with a couple more fundraisers (those who wish to make a contribution can contact Dave Cowan at 541-414-7037).
"I'm incredibly impressed and humbled by the generosity of the community," MaryAnne Cowan said.
The general fund represents about half the amount needed for all the players and coaches to make the trip. It includes $700 per player to help cover the cost of airfare plus enough money to cover the total expenses for the Ashland coaches, traveling shirts for the players and gifts for the Japanese coaches.
That leaves about $1,500 per player, which the Grizzlies have been busy raising since last May. Cowan said roughly three quarters to 80 percent of the players have so far raised at least $1,200, which would bring them within $350 of the total cost.
Just as it was in 2009, the auction proved to be the largest single fundraiser for the Grizzlies.
"We're still paying some bills, but I think we grossed $37,000," Cowan said. "It's pretty amazing because the alumni really come out and support us."
The Grizzlies also sold Grizz Cards, a $20 coupon book that nets Ashland $17 per card, resurrected the rent-a-player program and organized a test drive fundraiser at Butler Ford that brought in $8,000. The team pocketed another $8,000 for winning a photo contest, thanks to a creative use of the Grizzly mascot.
This year's Pacific Rim Bowl will be held July 27 at Oji Stadium in Kobe, Japan. The Grizzlies will fly out of San Francisco on July 21 and arrive in Osaka the following day. The players will meet their host families at the airport.
The Grizzlies will practice every morning between July 23 and July 26 to at Oji Stadium to prepare for the game. The afternoons will be spent sight-seeing. They'll eat at Kobe Harbor on July 23, visit Kinkaku-ji Temple and an old Samarai TV studio on July 24 and take a bullet train to Hiroshima on July 25.
When Japanese organizers were told that the Grizzlies' airfare would be higher than usual this year, they offered to cover half of the cost of the bullet train ride.
"They go totally out of their way to make sure it's a wonderful experience for the boys," Cowan said.
Ashland beat the Japan All-Stars 26-0 in Ashland in 2011 to snap a five-game losing streak and even the all-time series 6-6.