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Annual Castle Challenge helps promote athletics at DeKalb, Sycamore

Published: Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 11:52 p.m. CST
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(Rob Winner – rwinner@shawmedia.com)
The head official flips a coin during the coin toss before the start of Friday night's game between Sycamore and DeKalb.

DeKALB – The rivalry between DeKalb’s and Sycamore’s high school football teams may have been fierce on the field Friday but not between their schools’ booster clubs.

Members of the Sycamore Sports Booster Club and the DeKalb Barb Boosters came together at Huskie Stadium near the Northern Illinois University campus to help raise funds for local student-athletes. The two booster clubs, along with Castle Bank, organized the Castle Challenge, an event intended to increase attendance and funds for athletic events. 

As the DeKalb Barbs and Sycamore Spartans were about to face off inside the stadium, outside the volunteers from each club worked together to make sure families and fans were in the right mood for the game. Attendees who came were treated to music, food and entertainment for children such as castle-like bounce houses and mascots. 

For Sue Benson, a Sycamore clubs volunteer, it was a chance for club members to have fun with one another.

“We get to mingle with the other side and tease each other about the rivalry,” she said. 

Benson was one of about 100 volunteers who helped run the Castle Challenge. The event was created in 2000 by Castle Bank employees Gary Evans and Ron Bemis, who were trying to find a way to raise funds for local booster clubs. Evans, who works as the business development director for the bank, said he expected a big crowd for Friday’s game. 

“It’s always been a big game and we started ... the Castle Challenge to use this big event for boosters instead of strictly a football game,” Evans said. 

Since its inception, the challenge has raised more than $800,000 in the DeKalb and Sycamore area, according to the event’s website. The event is also held in other cities and counties, where it has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for athletics. 

Allen Maeder, Barb Boosters president, said the two clubs work together for all the student-athletes. The teams may compete against each other, but the rivalry is a healthy one. 

“On the field, you obviously have that competitive nature, but off the field, they’re friends,” Maeder said. 

Because it was Friday the 13th, the organizers of the event decided on a blackout night theme with black shirts, said Rose Treml, the Sycamore club’s president. Black is the one color shared by both programs and many fans at the challenge were wearing black.

“It’ll be interesting to see the stands,” she said. 

Sycamore resident Jeremy Alexander’s children have not yet entered high school but that didn’t stop him from coming to the challenge, which he considers a big event for the area. 

“It’s a good event for the community,” Alexander said. 

This was Benson’s seventh year volunteering for the challenge. Almost all of her children have graduated from Sycamore High School and played sports there.

“It’s a legacy coming to an end, but I’ll still come to the games,” she said. 

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