MARQUETTE - When Eric Dompierre's story won Sports Illustrated's "Underdogs" online contest, it brought a $25,000 grant and the chance for 10 players to travel to New York City for the magazine's Sportsman of the Year event next week.
But, in keeping with the precedents set throughout its championship season, the Ishpeming High School Hematites football team wants to stick together.
So the push is on to send the entire squad - 29 players, Coach Jeff Olson and one of his assistants - to NYC.
Ishpeming High School senior and varsity football kicker Eric Dompierre celebrates a win with his team after the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 7 state semifinal game at the Superior Dome Nov. 17. Dompierre’s story of overcoming adversity was highlighted in the Sports Illustrated online video series, “Underdogs.” SI announced Tuesday that the Ishpeming episode won an online voting contest, earning $25,000 for Ishpeming Public Schools and a trip for the Hematites to attend SI’s annual “Sportsman of the Year” award event. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
A minimum of $3,200 has to be raised almost immediately to make that happen.
"The community has already been so generous, I almost feel guilty to be asking again," said Connie Bertucci, secretary to Ishpeming Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Piereson.
But the buzz is already building around the fundraising.
"It's been amazing. You can't script anything better than this," Bertucci said.
Sports Illustrated agreed to pay for a charter bus to bring the whole team to the Big Apple, rather than the original offer of flying 10 members of the Hematite squad to New York.
"The $3,200 is the minimum we need for room costs," Bertucci said. "And once we get them there, we have to pay for meals and for transportation on our own."
While 10 team members will be transported by SI to the actual Sportsman event, Bertucci said the hope is the rest of the team will be able to do something special during that time frame in NYC.
"The time is short and we're in a crunch right now," she said.
The Ishpeming Booster Club is going to help as it can, even loaning money to the team if necessary.
"So we will still accept donations after the team goes so we can pay the booster club back," Bertucci said.
People who would like to make a donation can send a check made out to Ishpeming Public Schools with NYC trip in the memo to: Ishpeming Public Schools, 319 E. Division St., Ishpeming, MI 49849.
Or donations can be brought directly to the superintendent's office at that address.
Bertucci said also it would be great if an eastern Marquette County site could be found at which funds could be collected. For more information, call 485-5501, Ext. 131.
The team's bus leaves Monday. The trip takes about 20 hours. The Hematites will sightsee Tuesday; the Sportsman of the Year event is Dec. 5; and the team will return home Dec. 6.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.