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!

Upcoming Challenges

  • Belvidere First National Challenge (Belvidere High School) - September 8
  • DeKalb vs Sycamore First National Challenge* (NIU Huskie Stadium) – September 15
  • Sandwich First National Challenge (Sandwich High School) - September 15
  • Kaneland First National Challenge (Kaneland High School) - September 15
  • Harvard vs Marengo First National Challenge (Marengo High School) – September 22
  • Yorkville First National Challenge (Yorkville High School) - September 22
  • Plano First National Challenge (Plano High School) - September 22
  • Woodstock vs Woodstock North First National Challenge (Woodstock High School) – October 13

*DeKalb vs Sycamore First National Challenge Ticket Information:

Tickets available at DeKalb & Sycamore High Schools & Middle Schools, First National Bank, DeKalb and Sycamore Chambers, Kishwaukee Family YMCA, and by student athletes throughout both communities. Includes admission to football game, tailgate party activities, Kids Challenge Zone and Hy-Vee pork chop or hot dog meal.

  • Tailgate Pre-Sale Tickets - Adults $12, Students $6
  • Tailgate Tickets Game Night – Adults $14, Students $8

Sponsor Information

Interested in sponsoring the First National Challenge? Attached are the sponsor benefits and form. Contact Gary Evans at garyevans@fnni.com or 815-754-5131.

Photos

First National Challenge

First National Challenge First National Challenge First National Challenge First National Challenge
DeKalb vs. Sycamore - First National Challenge DeKalb vs. Sycamore - First National Challenge DeKalb vs. Sycamore - First National Challenge First National Challenge
First National Challenge First National Challenge First National Challenge DeKalb Cheerleaders
Kaneland Sports Boosters - First National Challenge Marengo & Harvard Booster Clubs - First National Challenge Plano Sports Boosters - First National Challenge

More Information

Participating Schools

  • 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

Challenge History

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.