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Why fundraisers keep kids out of trouble

My soccer team sold carnations dyed with green food coloring while Hootie and the Blowfish played Hold My Hand in the rain. Rather than trying to score beer or girls, our St. Patrick’s Day had a purpose. It was our junior year of high school and the flowers were part of a larger fundraising campaign to help offset the cost of our soccer team’s planned trip to Germany.

My teammates’ arms bled green beneath bouquets of withered flowers. We split up and some of us watched the parade while others canvassed the side streets: “Fundraising for our soccer team … buy a green flower for luck!” A few of the wet parade goers felt pity and bought one or two. A man jogged up to buy a carnation. “The parade’s a mess – I’m running in the opposite direction to fast forward it,” he laughed.

Our parents gave us gas money for carpooling to soccer games across the Carolinas and Georgia. But airfare to Germany was too much. After Mannheim and Dudenhofen we’d bus it to Italy to watch our national team play Czechoslovakia. Each of us had to raise $1500 to cover the expenses.

Despite the loss selling flowers, our t-shirt sales were lucrative. We contracted artists and brokered Hanes Beefy Tees by the thousands. We infringed copyrights by adding our team name above a BMW logo with The ultimate Soccer Machine underneath. We thought ourselves clever. The idea came from our unlikely soccer coach, Trevor Adair. Bart Simpson endorsed us with a thumbs-up and we sold two thousand of those in three weeks. Although some might say we took Matt Groening’s unintended beneficence for granted, a greater cause for the team fundraiser demonstrated how ingenuity and salesmanship was bigger than Super Mario World or King’s Quest V.

Our team flew to Germany and played soccer. In Italy the Americans lost to Czechoslovakia 6-1 in the 1990 World Cup. We returned home that summer to begin our senior year. That next spring there was another St. Patrick’s Day parade and two classmates from our high school were arrested for getting into a fight. Most of us stayed away from the parade that year. Perhaps it was the luck of the Irish, or a stain of green still lingering.

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