“Fun, food and fellowship” is the theme on the Andiamo riverboat Monday, June 11, as funds will be raised for the St. Thomas Center for Academics and Sports. Through the National Youth Sports Program, the center provides free summer academic and sports camps for Twin City area youth with an emphasis on serving low-income and diverse populations. The center also provides after-school tutoring and is planning for additional services related to education and athletics.

Dick Olsen, a Stillwater businessman, and Don Hovland, former school administrator and UST adjunct professor, are heading the Night on the River fundraiser as part of an effort to ensure the long-term viability of the programs and activities of the center.

“This will be a relaxing, fun event,” Olsen said, “with a great buffet dinner, live music and a silent auction. Unlike most fundraisers, there will be no speeches – just a chance for program supporters to enjoy themselves and meet others who care about opportunities for our kids.”

Boarding will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Andiamo dock on the south end of Main Street in Stillwater, with the cruise lasting from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Cruise tickets are $35, of which $10 is tax deductible.

A raffle will be held along with the cruise, but raffle tickets must be purchased before boarding because state gaming laws do not allow for sales in interstate waters. First prize in the raffle is a $1,000 gift certificate that can be used on the Andiamo boats, at the Lowell Inn or split between the two. Second prize is a Minnesota Wild Jersey with authentic autographs of all members of the 2011-12 team (a $500 value). Third prize is a hotel-and-meal package. Raffle tickets are $10 each. Winners need not be present.

Last summer 400 youth from St. Paul, Minneapolis, and the nine suburban district members of the East Metro Integration District (EMID) were served by the summer camps. More than 7,000 kids have been served since 1991 when Bob Brown, Tom Ressler, Mark Ahrens and others began the program at St. Thomas.

“In the early years the federal government gave money to the NCAA to contract with colleges to put on summer sports camps for low income kids,” Brown said. “It was hoped that the kids could become familiar with colleges so that they might consider going on beyond high school. We said we would only conduct the camps if we could give equal emphasis to academics and sports. Since then many other colleges followed our lead and broadened the scope of their programs.

“When the feds quit funding programs the NCAA dropped its participation. As a result, of the 206 colleges with programs at the peak there now are only about 20 of us left since we each have to obtain all of our own resources. We use a combination of in-kind contributions from St. Thomas and others, Alternative Learning Center contracts with school districts, volunteers, grants, and fundraising events such as this Night on the River.

“We believe our programs are a fine example of what St. Thomas does to be the great urban university that Father Dease envisioned when he became president. We hope to see many of our friends from St. Thomas joining with some of our other supporters at this event. It is a chance to renew acquaintances and make new friends while helping create opportunities for our kids.”

“If you can’t join the cruise,” Brown concluded, “please consider buying raffle tickets or making a donation so that we can keep our programs going.”

To buy boat tickets, raffle tickets, or for additional information contact Brown, (651) 962-4992. Checks should be made out to NYSP-UST.