Seventy-five thousand dollars was the amount scrawled across the front of the large check held by members of the Blue Bengal Athletic Association inside the Hall of Fame Room at the Jackson State University Lee E. Williams Athletic Assembly Center on May 16.
The hefty sum was donated to JSU’s Department of Athletics to benefit the 18 various sports programs offered by the HBCU.
“I’m a bowler and I always enjoyed football. I played basketball and ran track, so I have a love for all sports,” says Joann Jones, president of the Blue Bengals.
The donation is part of the non-profit organization’s annual giving. Jones explains, “Normally, every year, we donate an amount to Jackson State; generally, eighty-five to ninety percent of what we’ve collected from June the previous year to June the following year.”
Wheeler Brown, JSU’s director of athletics, expressed his gratitude for the charitable gift and his appreciation for the booster club.
“The Blue Bengals are a valuable part of what we try to do here at Jackson State University. It’s because of their dedication that we’re able to accomplish a lot of the things we need to accomplish,” he says. “When we ask things of them, they step up to the plate and have never denied us. They really grasp the fact that it’s about the kids and that’s what we ask all our booster groups to do – remember that it’s about the kids.”
Seated around a small table, three women stack raffle tickets into neat little piles as Jones emphasizes that all members volunteer their time and energy freely and a large bulk of the proceeds raised are a result of their fundraising efforts.
According to Jones, the $2 raffle tickets are for a “Barrel of Cheers”– a basket full of libations worth up to $200. The winner will be announced at their annual SWAC Football Kickoff Dance hosted at the Mississippi e-Center at Jackson State in August.
The JSU alum says she feels “super fantastic” that they can give back to an institution that has done so much for the community.
Johnny Jones, a long time Blue Bengals member, says he bleeds blue and white and is dedicated to aiding Jackson State. He urges others also to contribute their support.“You find people that down our university. They don’t do anything for the university, but they always got something negative to say. I wish that those people would come together and help us build this university up the way we need it.” Johnny says, “Send your donations and come to the games.”
Willie Owens has been the vice-president of the Blue Bengals for three years and a member of the association for nearly twenty-five years.
“This is my alma mater. I graduated from Jackson State way back in 1972. I got a degree in health and physical education, and I came back to Jackson State because I became a firefighter in Jackson and got a degree in fire science technology in 1979,” he says.
Owens believes that anyone who received an education from JSU should be willing to contribute and he challenges alumni to assist the Blue Bengals in their mission.
“We’re trying to recruit members for the Blue Bengals Association and just trying to recruit people to give back to the university. Nobody can say that they didn’t get anything from this university, especially if you got a degree from here you should be able to give back,” he says.
While giving back was a shared theme from many throughout the night, Brown and Jones wanted to remind everyone that the Jackson State baseball team is in New Orleans participating in the 2017 Southwestern Athletic Conference Baseball Championship Tournament this weekend.
Before heading to the “Big Easy” to rally behind the Tigers,” Brown invites all to follow his lead saying: “If they’re not doing anything this weekend come on down to New Orleans and cheer these guys on.”
“They have battled hard all year to get the number one seed, and it’s our time. They’re doing well, and the coach is really coaching them up hard, and it’s gonna be special down in New Orleans.”