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Malibu High School’s primary fundraising organization faces an uphill battle after an enormously successful first year.

By Stephen Dorman/Special to The Malibu Times

More than pleased with donations from local businesses in its first full year of operation, volunteers of The Shark Fund, a local nonprofit organization, say they are now hoping to see an increase in donations from families in the area that wish to help provide better educational, artistic and athletic tools for students attending Malibu High School.

The Shark Fund is a grassroots organization that began fundraising efforts in August 2003. It is run strictly by volunteers and works in conjunction with the Malibu High School PTSA, Athletic Booster Club (ABC) and Arts Angels.

In less than seven months, the organization helped raise more than $656,000 for the school, nearly five times the amount collected in any previous calendar year. The monies earned were distributed to a wide variety of programs at Malibu High including, but not limited to, informational technology, purchased of textbooks, science equipment, expanded library hours and stadium seating.

Yet, said the fund’s chairman, Wes Walraven, reaching or even exceeding those numbers will be very difficult to do this year unless a greater number of parents donate money or make time to volunteer their services. Currently, there are approximately 21 volunteers.

“Despite our success last year I’m still very disillusioned with our community,” Walraven said. “Some of our directors donated 60-80 hours every month and despite that, over half of the families didn’t even send a $10 check. It doesn’t matter to us how much money a family sends as long as we can get 100 percent participation.”

The organization’s newsletter, comprised of donated material and logos from Kaiser Marketing, states last year’s donations ranged from $5 to a $100,000 contribution from the Cavigga Family Trust. In addition, more than 35 families gave more than $5,000 apiece, and thousands more were given by Malibu-based businesses.

“It’s been pretty impressive how the community has risen to the challenge of adding money to the school,” said Malibu High School Principal Mark Kelly.

Kelly, who is in his first year at Malibu High, said one of the major benefits of The Shark Fund is that it has taken over the majority of the school’s fundraising efforts and expanded them, whereas before different organizations would often tap into the same resources, creating mixed results.

“[The organization] increased the overall fundraising capacity of the school,” Kelly said.

In order to properly distribute the funds, members of the PTSA, Art Angels, ABC, The Shark Fund as well as academic departmental chairpersons meet once a month to discuss which areas are in need of the most financial assistance. Once terms are agreed upon, the funding can then be distributed.

One of the long-term goals of The Shark Fund is to expand the school’s library, which, Walraven said, is nearly 10,000 volumes short for a school of Malibu’s capacity. In order to do that, however, the building itself would have to undergo expansion and renovation, significantly increasing the project’s cost.

Another area that has lacked funding in recent years is athletics. The school receives only a limited sports budget each year, and most of that money goes to coaches’ salaries and travel costs. Athletic Director Jeff Gardella said The Shark Fund has been able to provide money for ‘big ticket” items such as bleachers, concrete dugouts, a baseball scoreboard and gym dividers, but that some of the bare essentials such as uniforms remain in short supply.

Gardella credits the ABC with coming up with alternative fundraising programs to help support athletics, which fields approximately 40 teams, including freshman and junior varsity sports.

“Our booster club works extremely hard making sure that we can fund these sports,” Gardella said. “People don’t understand the importance that athletics brings. It’s a huge part of high school. The sportsmanship kids learn; the etiquette they learn; the discipline they learn; being able to perform for your school; that should take precedent over a lot of things in my opinion.”

More information about The Shark Fund can be obtained by e-mailing info@thesharkfund.org or visiting its Web site at www.thesharkfund.com.