Many a coach has counseled players to keep their eyes on the prize. This turns out to be good advice not only for athletes but also for those trying to raise money to support UNLV’s Rebel Athletics program. Case in point: the RAF Loyalty Circle.
The Loyalty Circle program was conceived just two and a half years ago, with the objective of providing funding for UNLV student-athletes in all intercollegiate sports. Its goal—$1 million a year. The money raised would cover the students’ tuition, room and board, training, recruiting, and other essential services, in accordance with NCAA rules. A plan was put in place in late 2010 to find 20 people a year who would each commit to give annual gifts of $10,000 for five years. By the fifth year, with 100 people giving $10,000 apiece, the goal would be achieved.
The response from RAF supporters was immediate and strong. Now, less than three years into the program, donations exceed $900,000 a year. Some donors have accelerated their giving, providing not $10,000 a year, but up to $50,000 in direct support to student-athletes. The goal is in sight.
“First in” were longtime Rebels fans and local business owners Jim and Michelene Barton. “I don’t think anyone could love the Rebels more than we do,” says Jim. “But right up there with our love of athletics is our belief in education. The Loyalty Circle is a boost to both.”
What makes the program so compelling is that under NCAA guidelines, it connects each donor with a gifted student-athlete to support, resulting in very personal and rewarding experiences for both. Bruce Layne understands the value from both perspectives. He grew up in Las Vegas and is a former UNLV baseball player. He and his wife Sherry are local philanthropists and Loyalty Circle members who sponsor catcher Ryan Scott.
“I am privileged to provide a scholarship and to mentor a baseball player who has the opportunity to graduate with a degree in business administration,” Layne says. “Being able to give back to my alma mater is a tremendous opportunity. My hope is to create a cycle of committed involvement and generational giving.”
UNLV Athletics Director Jim Livengood recognizes the impact the program is making. "We can't thank the members of the Loyalty Circle enough for their involvement and donations,” he says. "Their membership helps provide the funding necessary for us to fulfill our mission of giving each of our student-athletes everything they need to compete at the highest level, along with supporting them academically and socially.”
See who else is a Loyalty Circle supporter at unlvraf.com/campaigns_loyalty_circle.php.
For information about joining the Loyalty Circle, contact Julio Freire at 702-895-3020 or [email protected].