How successful was Clark’s third annual Cougar Challenge? The answer can be found in your preferred sports metaphor: a slam dunk, a walk-off home run, or an ace for game, set, match.
This year’s Challenge, a collaborative effort of The Clark Fund and Clark Athletics, raised an impressive $274,850 between Oct. 20 and 22. The event more than doubled last year’s total to support the purchase of equipment, training gear, apparel, as well as team-bonding activities and travel for Clark’s 17 intercollegiate varsity teams.
The Cougar Challenge boasted nearly 1,800 gifts — of which 21 percent came from alumni, 23 percent from students, and 19 percent from parents. The record-breaking total also was supported by an anonymous donor who committed $100,000 in matching funds once the Challenge reached $150,000 in gifts.
Alumni, parents, and friends provided $52,250 in additional matching gifts, including at least one for each sport. Rowing and women’s lacrosse led the way, receiving more than 300 gifts each. Nine teams raised more than $10,000, four more than reached that threshold in the previous year’s Challenge. And 834 gifts were made through virtual-pay platforms.
“The Cougar Challenge has positively impacted student-athletes at Clark in recent years, and we wanted to help elevate the results even further,” an anonymous donor said. “Athletics is such an essential part of the university ecosystem. It brings together students for a shared purpose and teaches important life lessons. Clark student-athletes bring those leadership and teamwork skills into their academic pursuits, community service, and other clubs and organizations. We’re thrilled that the Cougar Challenge has reached new heights, and we’ll continue to support student-athletes and Clark in the future.”
Trish Cronin, director of athletics and recreation, said she continues “to be humbled by everyone’s willingness to get involved and their competitive drive to push their team over the top,” noting that Athletics is “grateful for the continued generous support from alumni, family, friends, and students,” whose gifts enhance the experience for Clark’s student-athletes.
The remarkable response to the Cougar Challenge was yet another example of the giving community rising to the occasion on behalf of Clark students, said Jeff Gillooly, vice president of university advancement.
“Clark’s student-athletes had an especially difficult 2020 with the cancellation of entire sports seasons due to COVID, so it’s heartening to see so many people band together to support our athletics programs as they’ve resumed normal competition,” he said. “Their gifts will have a direct impact on every varsity sport played at Clark.”
Rowing coach Michael McDonald said the Cougar Challenge has become its own form of friendly competition among Clark teams, and promotes a sense of shared accomplishment among the athletics community.
“As a coach, I see and appreciate those impacts on a daily basis, and it makes me intensely aware of the investment into a given sport by its athletes, parents, alumni, and fans,” he said. “For the athletes, that communal support makes each competition and each success that much more meaningful.
“I also want to thank the folks in the Advancement Office, who have created this fast, fun, and convenient way for the Clark athletics community — both on and off campus — to show support and appreciation for our student-athletes,” McDonald added. “I’m not sure the teams and coaches can collectively say ‘thank you’ enough, but we will all work harder on the court, field, lake, and in the weight room to do so.”