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Game day concession stands provide fundraising opportunities for student groups

| Friday, October 27, 2017

When fans from across the country visit Notre Dame’s campus for home football weekends, many stop at food stands run by students to pick up something to eat on game day. Around 20 clubs have the opportunity to raise funds through concession stands on game days, Erin Riordan-Dye, assistant director of clubs for the Student Activities Office (SAO), said.

The Club Coordination Council (CCC) oversees allocation of the concession stands, Riordan-Dye said, and bases its decisions off of the funding each club has requested.

“It’s pretty competitive because there’s only a certain number of spots,” she said. “So they look at need, and how much clubs are needing to raise money and have money to do the things they want. If the CCC can’t fund that right out, they’ll give them a concession stand, knowing that that’s a great opportunity to raise the rest of their money themselves, in order to do the things they want to do.”

After clubs are chosen to run concession stands, they participate in a training session, to learn how to run the stands, Riordan-Dye said.

“You know, we’ve even had clubs come up to us and say, ‘I asked for a concession stand and we got one, but I don’t know how to grill,’” she said. “And you know, if that happens, then we teach them how to grill. And we go over safety protocols and they’re basically given every tool that they can to be successful.”

Before game day, clubs must also order their food from the University’s catering service and submit money orders to purchase any additional items they need, senior Dino Swan, president of the Adopt a Family Christmas Initiative, said.

“The day of [the game] is when things are kind of crazy,” he said. “You have to show up to [LaFortune Student Center], pick up your money you’re going to use, as well as a tent. You also have to make sure you acquire grills from a dorm, so you set those up and then you get your tables and you go.”

Swan said his organization earned around $2,400 last year and nearly $1,600 this year at concession stands.

“For our club, it’s an easy sell because we help families for Christmas who might not otherwise have it,” he said. “So, you know, we have a big speaker [and] we’re playing Christmas music the whole time. We’re all wearing Santa hats. We have stockings hung up on our tables.

“All the tables are gift-wrapped and then we’re handing out candy canes to kids who walk by. So, for our club at least, we really embrace the fun part of club, which is the Christmas holiday spirit.”

When the concession stand ran out of food last year, Swan said, customers continued to donate to the club.

“We had sold out of everything and people would walk up and try to order,” he said. “And then they’d ask a bit more about our club and just leave like $200 and say, ‘Adopt some families,’ so it was really cool in that respect.”

Senior Christian Flynn, co-director of Camp Kesem at Notre Dame, said the concession stands also allowed the organization to inform others about its mission. Camp Kesem aims to support local children whose parents have been diagnosed with cancer.

“My favorite part has been telling people about what we do,” he said. “ … They get so happy when we tell them, and they become inspired and ask for other ways they can help out instead of just donating $10 here, $10 there.”

One aspect of the concession stand process that can be frustrating for the organizations, Flynn said, is that clubs do not have a say in when and where their concession stands will be held.

“[The] first year we did it, I was a sophomore and we had the Texas game,” he said. “We had a great spot and make several thousand dollars. The last year that we did it was this previous year at the Michigan State [game], which is a game that doesn’t bring as many out-of-state fans. It was later in the year. … There’s less people at the games, the colder it gets, I think, and we had a terrible spot. So we didn’t lose money, but it paled in comparison to the performance of our Texas game.”

Still, Flynn said the University is very thorough in providing training and supplies for students.

“It’s really streamlined,” he said. “So from that sense it’s kind of a relief that with a lot other fundraisers that we run we’re taking a little bit more of a risk because it’s all on us, but Notre Dame provides great assistance and great support.”

The Knights of Columbus council also runs a steak sandwich concession stand on game days, though it is not directly under the jurisdiction of SAO, sophomore and officer of the council Mark Spretnjak, said.

“It’s a huge part of the game day tradition that a lot of people aren’t aware of,” he said. “I’m from here and I kind of knew it was there, but I wasn’t like always on top of it — going every week — but there will be alumni and people who have been part of the council or who have been coming to steak sales every day, game day, for 30 years.”

While most clubs only run one concession stand per year, the Knights of Columbus steak sales take place at every home football game, Spretnjak said.

“Kind of the layout for what we do is each week, we’ll pick a charity of the week and a certain percent of that day’s profits goes specifically to that charity,” he said. “We try to keep it pretty current or pertinent to the team we’re playing. So last week when we played USC, the charity of the week was relief for the wildfires in California.”

The remaining profits from the sales are pooled at the end of the year and divided between a few different charities, junior Andrew Rebholz, chancellor of the council, said. Rebholz said one of the most fulfilling parts of the steak sales is counting the money afterwards.

“It’s fun, also, just to have that much money in front of you and to be able to say we worked hard enough to get wads and wads of cash,” he said. “It feels fulfilling and then you remember all of it’s going to amazing causes. We’ve got all of that for charity.”

Though it can be exhausting, working the steak sales stand is ultimately worth it, Rebholz said.

“You find yourself at halftime at the game and you realize you’ve been standing for 12 hours,” he said. “And at the steak sales, we’re just taking in constant smoke from the grills and also screaming to stay enthused, so it’s a lot of energy and a lot of using your voice and then you go to the football game. It’s a blast to be with all the guys though, so it pays off for sure.”

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About Natalie Weber

Natalie Weber graduated in 2020 from the University of Notre Dame, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and minors in journalism and computing. A native of Grand Junction, Colorado she most recently served as Managing Editor at The Observer. // Email: [email protected] // Twitter: @wordsbyweber

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