HARWICH ─ School spirit is something Riley Demanche and Jason Masiello have in spades, which made the student athletes the ideal duo to serve Monomoy High as MIAA ambassadors. The pair is taking their roles seriously, and along with cheering on teams when not playing, are looking to help their school community through a new and ongoing fundraising effort.
At the moment, the Shark Fund is a giant jar that Demanche and Masiello have been bringing out at various events, encouraging fans to donate what they can, with all funds raised to benefit Monomoy families in need.
The idea was hatched not long after the two attended the MIAA (Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association) Winter Huddle, held in January, during which fellow ambassadors from schools throughout the state shared ideas regarding community service projects first talked about last fall.
“In the Winter Huddle they [asked] us to come back in the spring with a community service project to present to everyone and show what we did in our community,” said Masiello. “We couldn't really think of just one project we wanted to do. There are a lot of projects being done in our school and sometimes it's repetitive, so we decided to start the Shark Fund. We're going to do a bunch of different fundraisers all toward the Shark Fund, which goes to families in the Monomoy School District that are in need.”
The Shark Fund idea stemmed from the reality that in spite of perceptions to the contrary, many local families are struggling financially.
“In our school there are a lot of families in need, people that could use the extra help. There are a lot of families that don't get enough food on the table for their kids,” said Masiello. “So hopefully small things like this can help people have a nice Thanksgiving or a nice Christmas.”
While initially Demanche and Masiello considered donating the funds to a local organization, they were concerned that money raised wouldn't make it to the families they wanted to focus on.
“It's nice knowing it's going to a family in the Monomoy system, rather than just some family in the Lower Cape,” said Demanche. “With this you really know that someone you may know, someone in your school community, is being helped out by it.”
One of the fundraising ideas the pair has come up with is a Monomoy dodgeball tournament, which they'd like to hold this spring before school ends. The challenge facing them now is working around spring sports. They're currently working on finding a date that would allow a wide number of students to participate without worries of spring sports conflicts.
“We were thinking the entry fee for it could go toward the Shark Fund,” said Demanche, adding that student interest is high given that the event could be a lot of fun. It will also help them fulfill further duties as ambassadors as they have to report on their community service projects at the next MIAA huddle this spring.
All funds raised through the Shark Fund are given to the school's guidance department, which makes sure the donations reach families in need within the school district.
“It feels really great,” said Masiello. “The thing that I appreciate most is that it's staying in Monomoy. At first we were going to pick one of the Chatham or Harwich organizations, but that would only benefit a family from Harwich or Chatham. This is great because we can find a Monomoy family.”
Both Demanche and Masiello were elected to their positions, with support from Monomoy Principal Bill Burkhead, Athletic Director Karen Guillemette, and football coach Paul “Spanky” Demanche.
“I heard about it from other students in years past. They said it was really cool to meet other kids from different schools and talk about similar issues,” said Demanche. “When I got the opportunity to, I jumped on it. It sounded really fun.”
Demanche acknowledged that his outgoing personality gives him an edge when it comes to promoting the Shark Fund and getting people involved in the campaign.
“Being a little outspoken helps me get people more interested and fired up to donate and be part of it,” Demanche said. “I think it's easier to get people involved and excited about it. It would be harder if I was quieter and not really out in front of it, but being this way it's easier to get everyone involved.”
Being MIAA ambassadors has given Demanche and Masiello an opportunity to connect with other students from the state and discuss issues pertinent to everyone in school.
“That's the really cool part of this system,” said Demanche. “When you go [to meetings] you talk about different issues each time, relevant issues. It's not the same spiel at each meeting. It's relative problems that schools are facing together.”
That includes helping families in the local area who need it most.
“People have the perspective that everyone on Cape Cod is rich,” said Demanche. “That's obviously not the case. By doing this, we're able to help out families that people don't always see.”