DeKALB – They may wear different colors and root for opposing teams, but fans of the DeKalb Barbs and Sycamore Spartans agree on the importance of supporting athletics.
“It’s great to support your kid, it’s great to support your school,” said Darby Dwyer, 45, whose son, Kevin, is a lineman for the Spartans’ sophomore team. “But at the end of the day, it’s about raising money for sports boosters.”
Friday night’s game at Northern Illinois University’s Huskie Stadium also marked the 13th year of the Castle Challenge, said Gary Evans, the co-chair of the DeKalb/Sycamore version of the Castle Challenge.
Evans said student-athletes and the booster clubs at both schools have been selling Castle Challenge tickets to the game, which included a ticket to the game and to the tailgate dinner before it.
Inboden’s Meats in DeKalb made the pork chop sandwiches that were enjoyed by DeKalb and Sycamore fans that night.
Evans said they expect to raise about $60,000 through ticket sales and corporate sponsorships this year.
“We’ve been very fortunate with the way the economy has been,” Evans said. This year, the Castle Challenge has 93 sponsors, an increase from the past couple of years but not the most. The most corporate sponsors the DeKalb/Sycamore Castle Challenge has had was 150 in 2008.
The money the Castle Challenge takes in is divided between the booster clubs evenly. Evans said fundraising occurs all year until the basketball game between DeKalb and Sycamore in the spring. Then, they will have the final dollar total.
“If this [money] can help offset the cost of uniforms and everything else for families, the least we can do is go and support the event,” Dwyer said.
Barb fan Karyn Petersen, 45, also agreed that the Castle Challenge was a great way to bring the community together. Like Dwyer, she had a son, Matthew, playing during the sophomore game Friday night.
“We loved the community so much that we moved back here eight years ago because we were sick of the competitiveness of just being ‘one focus,’” Petersen said. “So we came out here to be well-rounded individuals so we were able to get that through the sports programs.”
Friday night saw DeKalb and Sycamore facing off twice: sophomore level and varsity level. Officials from both cities, including Mayors Kris Povlsen of DeKalb and Ken Mundy of Sycamore, were on hand for the night, in addition to both cities’ fire chiefs and police chiefs.
Between the games, student athletes from all local sports paraded onto the field. The parade of athletes included players from not only the DeKalb and Sycamore middle school and high schools, but players from local area youth teams.
The Castle Challenge also had three honorary captains this year. Evans said the honorary captains are prominent athletes from the community who have come back to mingle with the students, parents and sponsors who were out that night.
One honorary captain is Tim Tyrrell, the current vice president of the Chicago chapter of the NFL Players Association. Tyrrell was the quarterback for the NIU football team when they won the MAC championship and the California Bowl in 1983. Tyrrell was later drafted into the NFL, playing for the Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Rams, and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Tyrrell said it wasn’t until he was older that he realized how much time, money and effort parents put in to their kids’ athletics.
“I didn’t realize the impact and the opportunity that they gave the kids,” Tyrrell said. “I didn’t realize the booster club [at his high school] raised a lot of the money for the things that we needed whether it be equipment or that type of thing. So it’s huge. When you grow up, you realize that that stuff wasn’t for free.”
The other two honorary captains were Ross and Grant James, two DeKalb natives who competed in men’s rowing for the United States at the Olympic Games in London. The twins and their team made it to the medal round for men’s eight, but they finished in fourth in 5:51.48, three-tenths of a second behind Great Britain.