SHAMONG >> Five Marlton-based, community-minded entities delivered checks totaling $315,000 to the Lenape Regional High School District (LRHSD) at the Aug. 21 Board of Education meeting.
The donations will help offset the cost of replacing the deteriorating turf field at Cherokee High School, a project the district completed this summer to ensure the safety of its student athletes and all Evesham youth who practice and play on the field.
“We are humbled to consistently receive community support in the form of donations to help fund a vast array of programs and activities at all of our schools. The donations for the Cherokee turf field are exceptional, representing the strong relationships the district has built and the connections we have made that enrich our schools and the communities we serve,” said LRHSD Superintendent Carol Birnbohm, Ed.D.
According to Walt Miller, president of the Marlton Recreation Council (MRC), the turf field at Cherokee has become the cornerstone of community activity. “Since its original installment, we’ve seen tens of thousands of practices and games on there, not only for Cherokee athletes, but also for the majority of the 17 MRC programs that serve about 8,500 local athletes,” added Miller. “Non-athletes also have piled into the stadium and onto the turf for graduation events and to view our spectacular community fireworks. Because the turf has become a shared asset, we thought that the MRC, with generous support from area businesses, would share the burden of the cost of replacing the turf with the school district.”
The MRC played a leading role in raising money for the replacement turf, as well as fundraising for the original Cherokee turf field. The original turf field was completely funded through donations collected by a community-led committee, with some of those same donors contributing to the new turf field.
Mark McKenna, of The Mark McKenna Real Estate Team, is one of those repeat donors. A 1986 graduate, he played Cherokee football as a member of a state championship team, and his son, who graduated in 2017, also played for the school. He, therefore, was motivated both personally and professionally to support the turf replacement. “Cherokee football will always have a special spot in my heart, and I constantly mention how impressive ‘Friday Night Lights’ is at the school when selling homes in our town,” he said. “There is no other place like this in South Jersey on Friday nights; it’s a meeting place for so many people in our community.” LRHSD recognizes the following groups and community members for generously supporting the new turf field at Cherokee High School:
Marlton Recreation Council - $150,000 -Walt Miller, President -Mike Orth, Vice President -Dave Garagozza, Treasurer -Rick Brown, Secretary -Meghan Lafferty, Public Relations -Lisa Grandinetti, Safety Director -Kevin Kotch, Athletic Director Burns Kull Auto Group - $100,000 -Larry Kull -CJ Kull -Pete Lanzavecia -Jim McCormick The Mark McKenna Team/Pat McKenna Realtors - $35,000 -Mark McKenna
CareOne at Evesham - $15,000 -Tammy Holloway -Joe Mina -Tara Oden Re/Max Connection - $15,000 -Chris Brown -Deanna Brown “We are so grateful that the community sees value in supporting our schools and recognizes the role we play in contributing to thriving towns,” added Birnbohm. “We, therefore, extend a ‘super big thank you’ to our Marlton-based groups for the ‘supersized checks’ they donated to our district.” The original turf field at Cherokee was installed on Sept. 17, 2009. It began exhibiting signs of premature degradation within the warranty timeframe. After seeking an expert opinion to review the deteriorating field at Cherokee, as well as at Shawnee High School, where the same product was used, the district concluded that the product had defects and began investigating legal recourse. That process remains ongoing.
The new turf at Cherokee is by Shaw Sports Turf, and it was installed Aug. 1, 2019. The community is invited to a recognition of those who contributed to the new turf between the 1st and 2nd quarters at the Friday, Sept. 13 home football game against Shawnee High School. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.