Honoring fallen fan by helping the team

Annual UND Fan Fest lets UND Hockey embrace its faithful, and for four years, REA’s Suite 220 has been returning the salute

Suite 220

Friends of UND Hockey are a dedicated breed of fanatic, but the members of REA Suite 220 take it to another level. The group has been helping to raise thousands each year to fund the cost of summer school for UND student-athletes, in memory of one of their own, Todd Larson, who passed away. Photo by Tyler Ingham/UND Today.

It all started four years ago when Jerry Bugliosi, Todd Larson and other members of Ralph Engelstad Arena’s “Suite 220” wanted to do something for the UND Men’s Hockey program.

Todd Larson and family

Todd Larson and family

“I sat down with Hakstol and said, ‘Coach, what do you need?’” Buglosi reminisced. Then head coach of the program, Dave Hakstol, answered what was needed most was summer school scholarship money, a key recruiting tool for Division I sports. Just four years later, Suite 220, along with the assistance of the Ralph Engelstad Arena (REA) staff, provided enough scholarship money to cover every cost of education for every UND  hockey player this past summer.

This weekend, on Sunday, from 1-2:30 p.m., those student athletes will be part of the 10th Annual UND Hockey Fan Fest at REA, a chance for the team to thank its faithful followers for all the support.

But some fans, such as the members of Suite 220, go above and beyond.

For the first couple of years, it was just Suite 220 participating in this program, and each member was encouraged to give $50. All 23 seats donated, generating around $1,150 per year, making a small dent in the roughly $6,000 per player cost. Then, in October 2016, Todd Larson, a member of Suite 220 and a committed UND hockey fan, passed away. The other suite members decided to continue their contributions to the summer school scholarships in his memory.

It was then that they decided they wanted to do even more and fully fund the hockey team’s summer annual scholarship needs of roughly $40,000 to $60,000, depending on the number of student-athletes and their cost of tuition. This year’s costs were estimated around $50,000.

“We wanted to make these donations manageable,” Bugliosi said. “So instead of asking 50 people for $1,000, we decided to ask 1,000 for $50.”

Suite support

After talking with the REA staff and current UND Head Hockey Coach Brad Berry, the REA offered to match the first $25,000 raised dollar-for-dollar and help spread the word about the initiative. They asked every suite seat holder and club seat holder to donate just $50 to make this dream a reality.

Shortly after announcing this goal, Todd Larson’s uncle, Jon, gave a lead gift to start out the campaign in honor of his nephew.

“It was great to start like that,” Buglosi said. “Jon wanted to do this to remember Todd, and we’re pretty proud of what we’ve started.”

After that, other suite members, friends, and family joined in and had their gifts matched by REA to cover the scholarships for the summer of 2018.

While Jerry and the rest of Suite 220 are excited about this year’s success, they already are preparing for the next.

“Now we start at zero,” Bugliosi said. “The whole idea is to do it every year, but if a lot of people participate, it won’t be hard to reach our goal.”

Colton Poolman

UND Hockey senior captain Colton Poolman (No. 6) says the ability to take classes in the summer lightens his load during the normal academic year when he is balancing both school and hockey. Image courtesy of Jayson Hajdu/UND Athletics.

Greatest need

Summer school scholarships are an essential part of an elite Division I program, according to current UND Heath Hockey Coach Brad Berry.

“When people ask us what our greatest needs are, I say summer school scholarships — it is that important to us,” he said.

Coach Brad Berry

Coach Brad Berry

“Most people don’t know that a standard athletics scholarship does not cover summer school,” Berry added. “Another little known fact is that summer school scholarships allow us to bring our incoming freshman in for the summer to help them get a head start on both their academics and our summer strength and conditioning program.”

Scholarships for summer school help student-athletes perform like champions in the classroom as well as on the ice. In 2016-17, UND hockey posted a 3.27 team average GPA, including six student-athletes with 4.0 semester GPAs.

Senior UND captain Colton Poolman knows the importance of summer school scholarships.

“Having the opportunity to take classes in the summer really benefits to not only by lightening the academic load during the normal academic year, but continues to help me learn how to manage time and helps me to graduate on schedule,” Poolman said. “By having school in the summer, it keeps me in a normal routine of schoolwork and athletic training that I would otherwise not have during the summertime.”

Stories like Poolman’s inspire the team’s fans to give back.

“When an athlete writes a note and says thanks, when we know we made life easier for them, that’s our reward,” Bugliosi said. “We want the best student-athletes to come here, and being able to offer these scholarships is just one more arrow in the quiver for Coach when he’s out there recruiting.”

“It’s great to see fans continue to come together like this and support our team,” stated Mike Mannausau, Associate Athletic Director at UND Alumni Association and Foundation. “These scholarships have a huge impact on our students and allow them to not only go to summer school and continue their education, but also to bond as a team over the summer and start to create chemistry, which is really important for a successful season.”

For more information on athletic summer school scholarships and how you can get involved, visit UNDalumni.org/tlarson.

About the author

Lauren Vetter

Lauren Vetter, ’18, is a Content Specialist at the University of North Dakota Alumni Association and Foundation. The recent graduate of UND and native of Fargo double majored in Communication and Public Affairs, with a minor in Nonprofit Leadership.