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Booster Days gives a lift to Hudson's youth

Booster Days presents a unique opportunity.

How often can you eat a chicken dinner, play some bingo, enjoy a beer and dance to a rock and roll band -- and be considered a community supporter for doing it?

Hudson's annual Fourth of July celebration that starts Friday is more than just a party. It's the main fund-raiser of the year for the Hudson Boosters, the volunteer-run organization that provides summer baseball and softball programs for the community's youth.

This summer, 1,150 boys and girls living within the Hudson School District are playing ball on one of 90 Booster teams. In the fall, the Boosters will offer a tackle football program for some 350 fifth- and sixth-graders.

"Come on down and have a good time. It is a fun atmosphere," said Boosters President Jim Londo, inviting Hudson-area residents to Lakefront Park for the 2006 festivities.

The proceeds from the celebration are used to subsidize participation fees for the youth that play Booster ball.

The organization also will be looking to set aside some money for the development of new ballfields, Londo indicated.

"We need to acquire some land and get some money to build more fields, because if you look at what the school district is saying about population growth, we're going to run out of space for teams," he said.

As a sign of things to come, Londo pointed to the Machine Pitch 1 league with 16 teams of boys ages 6-8. It's the most teams the league has ever had.

Londo should know. He's been a Booster coach since 1991, after moving to Hudson with his wife, Jody, and their young daughter Cara the previous year.

Growing up in Brooklyn Center, Minn., Londo played Little League and Babe Ruth baseball and wanted his children to have a similar experience. His dad coached him, too.

Cara is 21 years old, married and living in Hammond now, but the Londos have two other children still playing Booster ball. Fourteen-year-old Callie is on the Senior League fast-pitch Black team and a recreational tournament team. Zach, 10, plays for the Junior League Gray team and a weekend tournament team.

"They seem to have fun. I think it's a good experience for them," said Londo. "I like it because it gives them some community involvement. They see me doing that."

After seeing Booster members dedicate themselves to serving youth over the years, Londo decided in 2000 that it was time for him to increase his involvement in the organization.

The Boosters have about 40 active members that meet year-round organizing sports programs, the annual Easter egg hunt and Booster Days.

This year, the former U.S. Marine and current business analyst for Kodak Health Group took his Booster involvement to a new level by volunteering to serve a term as president of the organization.

He wanted to do his part, he said, but it's turning out to be a growth experience for him as well.

"This is a life-learning type thing," he said. "This is a big organization. Learning how to run an organization this big is a growth opportunity."

Londo said he's fortunate that longtime Boosters like Troy Timm, Tom Boron, Dave Huehn and others know what needs to be done to put on a community celebration.

The emphasis this year is on providing plenty of children's entertainment, Londo said.

The Teddy Bear Band and the Resistors will give kid-friendly performances at the band shell following Saturday's 11 a.m. parade.

On Sunday, there's a kids' fishing contest starting at noon, followed by a kid's tractor pull at 2 p.m.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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