In 2019, a passionate group of pickleball players began a $100,000 fundraising campaign for eight new pickleball courts, which were recently completed at Pioneer Park in Rhinelander. The City of Rhinelander offered early guidance on the project and has committed to ongoing maintenance of the courts. Fundraising efforts were led by Walmart, Wisconsin Public Service Foundation, Rhinelander Dental and other local businesses, with seventy-five percent of contributions coming from the pickleball players themselves.
The Rhinelander Community Foundation was able to facilitate the charitable giving for the project. The project lends nicely to RCF’s mission to facilitate charitable giving and, together with donors, enhance the quality of living in the Rhinelander community now and for future generations.
Mike Henry, RCF board member and pickleball enthusiast commented, “From my point of view, the true objective of the Community Foundation was able to be realized. I don’t think that one can say that the pickleball courts wouldn’t have eventually gotten built, but having been a member of the informal community support group, I am certain that the ability of the Foundation to provide philanthropic incentive was extremely beneficial in this endeavor. It’s a tremendous feat of multiple groups coming together to generously, efficiently and communally realize an undertaking that Rhinelander will be able to proudly point to for years to come.”
The project was able to be operated on a local level, cost-efficiently, by working through the collaboration of non-profits organizations. Downtown Rhinelander, Inc entered into the contract for the new court construction with Pitlik and Wick Construction. RCF was able to facilitate community giving and their Board of Directors approved a grant to DRI for over $104,000 for the pickleball project completion.
Pat LaPorte, DRI and RCF Board member, shared, “Creating a vibrant community takes collaboration from the private and public sectors. Collaboration means that all stakeholders are contributing time, money and expertise. What a great example of stakeholders coming together to create something that the community wanted to see. Downtown Rhinelander Inc. was happy to be a part of the team to bring it to fruition.”
About 130 donor names will be included on a donor board put together by the pickleball committee to make the court construction possible. The large fundraising effort was organized by Maureen O’Melia. Grant writer and member of the Pioneer Park Pickleball committee, Jane Banning, reflects on the process, and “gratefully acknowledges the collaborative efforts of organizations, individuals and businesses that made this project successful. This is tangible evidence that the vision of a small group in combination with the support of city, non-profit and private entities can make a difference in the community at large. It is our hope that the Pioneer Park pickleball courts will result in the improved health and well-being of the Rhinelander community.”
Rhinelander Community Foundation envisions Rhinelander realizing its potential through philanthropy. Mike Henry further shares about the pickleball project, “It can be held up as a template for optimistically envisioning and accomplishing other opportunities for our city and the surrounding communities, a successful model of how to confidently dream about and then achieve other aspirations that we have for the place we all call home.” RCF is hopeful this project will be a springboard for future community supported impact projects. To find out more about RCF, go to www.rhinelandercommunityfoundation.com.
Interested in knowing more about the sport craze? The sport of pickleball has been around for about 50 years and according the USA Pickleball Association website, is played on a badminton-sized court with the net set to a height of 34 inches at the center. It is played with a perforated plastic ball and composite or wooden paddles about twice the size of ping-pong paddles. It can be played indoors or outdoors and is easy for beginners to learn, but can develop into a fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players. In addition, the game has developed a passionate following due to its friendly, social nature, and its multi-generational appeal. Pickleball can be played as singles or doubles and is easily learned. No special apparel is needed and equipment is inexpensive and easily portable.