The First National Challenge was created to increase attendance at athletic events, raise funds, and enhance awareness of the local Sports Booster Club organizations. Local businesses, organizations, and individuals are “Challenged” to help raise funds that will help support school athletic programs with net proceeds being distributed to the school’s booster clubs. Combined, the First National Challenge programs have raised over $2 million dollars for their school’s athletic programs. By accepting this year’s Challenge, you will be helping provide a future for our children’s athletic programs. What’s good for the kids is great for the community!
- DeKalb vs Sycamore First National Challenge (NIU Convocation Center) – January 27
- Harvard vs Marengo First National Challenge (Marengo High School) – January 28
- Woodstock First National Challenge (Woodstock High School) – February 17
Additional participating schools - games will be held in the fall, dates TBD
- Sandwich First National Challenge
- Yorkville First National Challenge
- Plano First National Challenge
- Kaneland First National Challenge
Interested in sponsoring the First National Challenge? Attached are the sponsor benefits and form. Contact Gary Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 815-754-5131.
- DeKalb/Sycamore – total raised $980,000
- Kaneland – total raised $358,482
- Sandwich –total raised $175,764
- Yorkville – total raised $326,975
- Plano – total raised $167,493
- Harvard/Marengo – total raised $104,226
The First National Challenge, formerly Castle Challenge, was created in 2000 by Gary Evans and Ron Bemis, employees of First National Bank who were looking for an opportunity to help raise money for the DeKalb and Sycamore Sports Booster Clubs.
The concept was for First National Bank to offer the lead sponsorship of the event and they would then challenge other local businesses from DeKalb and Sycamore to donate a minimum of $500. This donation would then be used for sponsorship of the local high school football game between the two rival towns. Sponsoring companies, in turn, would receive a multitude of publicity. Their names would scroll across the scoreboard throughout the night and be posted on all advertising materials leading up to the game. Sponsors would also be introduced in person on the football field.
Evans shared his concept with fellow coworker, Ron Bemis. They approached the president of First National Bank (Illinois), Tim Struthers, with the community fundraising idea. He agreed to donate the lead sponsorship in the bank's name. Evans and Bemis then contacted each school's booster club, athletic director, football coach and school administration regarding this fundraising event. Both Booster Clubs accepted the challenge and agreed to provide a joint tailgate dinner prior to the football games.
In the inaugural year, 12 sponsors accepted the challenge and $20,000 was raised. All proceeds were split evenly between the two school’s booster clubs. Because of the success of this inaugural Challenge event, other communities joined the Challenge bandwagon. In addition to DeKalb and Sycamore, there are currently Challenges in Yorkville, Sandwich, Plano, Kaneland, Harvard and Marengo.
The basis of the First National Challenge continues to be, what is great for the kids is great for the community.