Bags on Green St. hopes to draw crowds, cash for Boys and Girls

By Ellyn Newell

Who would have thought that a bag of beans could affect a campus’s day and potentially a child’s life? That is exactly what is happening Friday on Green Street between Fourth and Wright streets. While the blocked street may be an inconvenience to some students and faculty, it will be an advantage to 1,740 boys and girls from the Champaign-Urbana area, said Michael Byrd, development director for the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club.

“We were looking for something that was unique, fun and could appeal to different segments,” Byrd said, “Bags had all of these ingredients.”

The bags tournament will consist of five different divisions: corporate, university, open, youth and pro. However, the university division will be the only group competing Friday on Green Street. The winners of the division will then advance to the downtown competition Sunday for a chance to win the grand prize of $250 to $500, depending on division.

“If this is successful, this would become an annual event,” Byrd said.

For the last 17 years, the club’s main fundraising event was a duck race. This consisted of people buying rubber ducks and then watching them race to see which duck would win. Although this had brought in large revenue in the past, the organization decided it was time to find something else. As Byrd placed calls around the nation, he was asked if he had ever heard of cornholing (another term for bags). Thus the idea for this event was brought to life.

“Instead of just having 20 people involved, I thought, ‘What the heck! We need to do something big,'” Byrd said.

The closing of Green Street, however, was no simple task. Byrd took steps to communicate with the Campus Business Association, University officials, the police and finally the mayor and city manager. The club also touched base with other downtown Champaign businesses and establishments to see if this was the type of event that they would like to be involved in, Byrd said.

“We received positive encouragement,” Byrd said, “The University was very supportive.”

The students have also been very supportive. John Estep, sophomore in LAS, registered as soon as he heard about the event.

“It’s a good cause, but I mostly signed up because I really, really love bags,” Estep said.

Chase Michels, sophomore in ACES, registered for the event with the same competitive spirit in mind.

“I’m good at bags and ready to win, so this tournament is pretty much a sure win for us,” Michels said.

Michels’ teammate, Jack Carmody, sophomore in LAS, was drawn less to the leisure factor and more so to the philanthropic component of the event.

“I like playing bags but when I heard about this from my frat, I really liked the idea that the money was going to kids in the area,” Carmody said.

The operating budget of the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club is $875,000, and a little more than 76 percent of funding comes from individual contributions. This is why community involvement is such an important aspect of club fundraising. Byrd hopes the event will bring in between $10,000 and $20,000 after expenses.

“We were sensitive to keeping the entry fee low so that everyone can participate. A golf tournament can cost anywhere from $100-$200,” Byrd said.

All of the money raised in this tournament goes straight to the boys and girls involved in the organization in Champaign-Urbana, which provides services to an average of between 115 and 145 kids per day and runs all year long.

The divisions receiving the most attention are the university and corporate divisions. Although formal online registration closed at 8 a.m. Friday, Byrd would like to encourage students to show up at 6 p.m. to see if there are any openings still available. The entry fee for the university division is $30 ($15 per person), and the tournament will be held tonight from 6-10:30 p.m.