Huskie Booster Club president has Yen for community building
Cathy Yen hopes the new chairs and tables outside the Oak Park-River Forest High School cafeteria will be used at lunchtimes and during sporting events. Yen is president of the Huskie Booster Club, which purchased the seating. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:01PM
OAK PARK — What sets Oak Park-River Forest High School’s Huskie Booster Club apart is its determination to support all student activities, not just sports.
That may be one reason why Cathy Yen of Oak Park – with her daughter Erin a junior involved in dance and her son Chris a freshman wrestler and soccer player – was elected president last year. She is representative of the breadth of activities the club supports.
It doesn’t hurt she has 20 years experience in corporate finance and a history as treasurer on the boards of local non-profit organizations such as the Girl Scouts, United Way and the Oak Park Education Foundation.
After all, while Yen considers supporting the activities of all OPRF students as the booster club’s first job, fundraising is an important part of that support.
“When it comes to co-curricular activities, we provide funds for everything from the drapes in the auditorium, to the scoreboard on the playing field, to the rice cooker for the Japanese club,” said Yen, 48, who served as president-elect last year and has begun her two-year term as president, to be followed by another year as past-president.
“We raise in the neighborhood of $70,000 throughout the year, sometimes more,” she said. “Fortunately, my predecessors have done such a fabulous job with that in the past that I have the luxury of being able to continue their efforts without having to tinker too much.”
That has allowed her to devote her attention to the executive committee’s chief goal, which is to spread the word of the booster club’s equal inclusivity and to reach out to the community with information about OPRF’s non-classroom activities. During her tenure, the club has tried engage parents by revamping its website and building a Facebook page with a linked Twitter feed—in addition to sending out a monthly newsletter.
“If a parent goes to a soccer game and shoots me an email saying ‘Hey, we won!’ we’ll post that on Facebook,” said Yen, who moved to Oak Park in 1994 with her husband, Scott Yen. “The same goes if they’re sharing the callback list for a play. Or, if there’s a big game coming up, we’ll send a shout out to all the parents so they’ll know it’s happening.
“We’re careful to make sure that athletics gets lots of attention. When there’s a big football game, for example, we do everything we can to support the team, but we try to remind the community that there’s also the cheerleading squad, the drill team, the marching band, the color guard – there are a lot of kids involved, all doing really cool things.”
Yen said her next big push will be to recruit a parent volunteer to the Booster Club from every OPRF team and activity, establishing a network of parent contacts.
“That’s going to take awhile, because there might be 90 different clubs at the school,” Yen added with a laugh. “But we want to create that network, so if someone is trying to get their child engaged in activities, they can easily learn about all the options that are available.”