This year, Pitman High School has seen a return of its Booster Club, which aims to support all academic, athletic and activity programs. One of the club’s main goals at the beginning of the school year was to increase school spirit, and after donations from local organizations and community members, they are one step closer as they have secured an inflatable tunnel and senior arch for school events.
The 15-foot-long, 15-foot-wide and 18-foot-tall inflatable tunnel in the shape and colors of the iconic Pitman Lion logo is being created by Inflatable Gurus out of San Diego. The plan is for the tunnel to be used for sporting events and other campus activities. Meanwhile, the senior arch being created is similarly colored and will be used for several activities for the school’s senior classes.
According to the Boosters, the idea of bringing inflatables to Pitman first originated from Vice President Allison Arrizon and her conversations with her son and his football teammates.
“We would go to games and he would ask why we don’t have an inflatable when every other school has one,” Arrizon said. “We had been talking about it and knew that would be a goal, but the kids were like, ‘No, we want it now.’”
When brainstorming the fastest ways to make the students’ dream a reality, the Boosters decided to turn to the community. During the first freshman football game of the season, the group launched the 100 from 100 fundraising campaign, which encouraged 100 community members to donate 100 dollars. In only a few days, the Boosters were on the cusp on already reaching their goal.
While the funds had seen a significant increase through the help of the campaign, the boosters would receive extra help from one of the city’s oldest and most recognizable community service organizations, the Kiwanis of Greater Turlock.
Boosters President Priscilla Suarez explained that the Kiwanis reached out to them through Instagram comments, hinting that they would like to help the cause. Suarez and Arrizon met with the organization over breakfast, where they were awarded a generous donation.
Of the Kiwanis members in attendance that day was Michael and Christina Staack, whose family has a special connection to Pitman as their son, Matthew, attended the school and played football for the Pride from 2005 to 2009. In early March, Matthew passed away in a car accident, and since then, support from the Pitman campus community has continued to roll in. As part of honoring Matthew’s life, the entire football program is wearing #13 stickers on the back of their helmets. Upon hearing the news of wanting to bring an inflatable to Pitman, the Staacks decided to return the favor with a donation of their own.
“Pitman gave Matt opportunity. If it weren’t for Pitman, he probably would have never played because he was so small,” Michael said. “We wanted to do something special and this just captured it because this won’t be used for just football, it’s the whole school. Everybody will be able to use it.”
With the additional donation, the tribute to Matthew will be featured on the inflatable tunnel.
“Our biggest fear is that Matt won’t be remembered, so when he’s honored in any way whether it’s the helmet stickers or the tribute on the inflatable, we’re honored to have people remember and recognize him,” Christina said. “Matt was everybody’s best friend… Matt helped a lot of people, but he didn’t want any recognition for anything. That’s the kind of person he was.”
Pitman High Principal Angela Freeman believes that the tributes to Matthew can help future generations learn of him and his exceptional character.
“I unfortunately never had the honor of meeting Matthew, but hearing stories of him, I think it’s a great legacy that he’s left. I think he truly made his mark on Pitman and it’s great that students can learn of him,” Freeman said.
Similar sentiments were shared by Pitman Athletic Director Dustin Curtiss, who had met Staack on numerous occasions.
“Matt was somebody who was full of energy, even in down situations. With the football team wearing the stickers on the back of the helmet and this new tribute, hopefully it’s going to teach these students stay positive no matter the situation,” Curtiss said. “It’s going to be reiterated that we don’t put numbers on helmets or honor them for no reason. He didn’t play another sport, but we’re going to have the inflatable out there with his number and all of our coaches understand why it’s there, so all of our coaches can bring it up and spread his story and legacy. It’s not going to be forgotten.”
After receiving the additional donations from the Staack family and the Kiwanis, the boosters were able to purchase the additional inflatable senior arch. On top of the two inflatables, there was also enough money for the athletic department to buy a new student-athlete recovery ice machine and ice bath tubs.
“As athletics are back for the first time in almost two years, hopefully it’s things like this that have students excited to go to games and play sports and have that Pitman Pride mentality,” Curtiss said.
“There are just so many great things we can do for students when we have these booster clubs,” Freeman added. “They do so much amazing, hard work for us and their efforts don’t go unnoticed.”
The inflatable lion head tunnel is expected to be shipped on Oct. 6, which is right in time for the school’s homecoming on Oct. 14. That night, the Pride will take on the Jaguars of Gregori High.For more information on the Pitman Pride Booster Club, head to their website at www.pitmanprideboosterclub.godaddysites.com or follow them on Instagram at @pitman_pride_boosters or “Like” them on Facebook at “Pitman Pride Boosters.”