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Ripon sports score with QB Club

Group gives $100K in 2 years to youth groups

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Ripon sports score with QB Club

John Franscella has been running the Ripon Almond Blossom Golf Tournament for 22 years. This year’s event will be held on Friday, Feb. 22, at Spring Creek Country Club.

JAMES BURNS/The Bulletin


POSTED February 13, 2013 1:24 a.m.

His football jersey.

Her basketball uniform.

Their tournament fees, equipment and championship memorabilia.

Want a stadium, with prospects of a new sod and track? They’ll help with that, too.

For more than 30 years, the Ripon Quarterback Club has watched over the city’s athletic programs, raising the funds necessary to outfit and support youth athletics.

What began with a dinner to benefit the Ripon High football team in 1983 has evolved into a multi-faceted, year-round organization; an umbrella group made up of 57 members that watch over more than 75 youth teams.

“We don’t just support football. It started because the football team needed jerseys, but we support everyone. Just come tell us what you need,” said John Franscella, an original member who sits on the Board of Directors.

Franscella estimates the club has given more than $100,000 to its youth teams in the last two years. Last year alone the club gave away $53,000, said QB Club President Mark Lucchesi.

“It’s really just to help youth sports. Nothing more than that – to help kids. That’s our motto,” he said. “We raise money to dole out to different organizations, because they really need our help.”

There may be no bigger event for the club than the Almond Blossom Festival, which begins on Friday, Feb. 22. Approximately 35 percent of the club’s net profit will be raised during the three-day festival, said Franscella, also the club’s former treasurer.

The club has three fund-raisers planned for the festival, including one of its most popular and prosperous events – the Ripon Almond Blossom Golf Tournament, hosted by Spring Creek Country Club.

It’s become Franscella’s baby.

The retired superintendent for the now-defunct Fox River Paper Company began the tournament in 1991, growing the field from 60 participants in its infancy to 120 on Friday.

The event is sold out – has been for days, Franscella says – yet checks and registration information keep pouring in.

“I know there are three or four more foursomes that want in, but they procrastinated,” he said. “I’m going to have to send those checks back and say ‘Sorry, you’re too late.’”

The golf tournament is the club’s third-most successful fund-raiser, trailing only the Steak and Oyster Feed – the club’s original event – and a motorcycle raffle.

Hard to imagine it began with a few beers and playful banter between friends and club members in Jim Stuart’s barn.

They were busy dreaming up new and exciting ways for the club to reach the community, when Franscella’s focus latched onto a golf tournament.

“I had never run a golf tournament,” he said. “I was like, ‘Hell, I might as well do it.’ I did and it grew from there.”

There is incentive to play.

The morning and afternoon will be spiced with contests and lavish gifts and cash prizes. Those playing the par-3, 184-yard fifth hole will have a chance to win a Chevy car with a hole-in-one. There will also be a putting contest that may net the finalist $5,000.

“The secret is that I have 30 foursomes. Out of those 30, 19 of them have at least one club member playing in it,” Franscella said. “The support of the members – that is the secret to the success of the event. It’s that support the club has shown me over the years.”

The club hopes the support spills into Saturday’s events – the Brats and Drinks and Almond Blossom Dance.

The Brats and Drinks has been moved from the American Legion Post to the Ripon Community Center after experiencing a swell in popularity the last few years. The community center is much more spacious.

Brats and Drinks will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and will be followed by the adult dance from 8 to midnight.

For more information or to make a donation, visit the club’s website at www.riponqbclub.com

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