BONNERS FERRY — The Springs Restaurant in the Kootenai River Inn was particularly packed for a Thursday night on Nov. 9, from 5-9 p.m. Not only were the tables filled with guests enjoying dinner, but the floor was alive with Badger spirit and pride. An old tradition, lost after many years, was resurrected — Tip a Badger night had returned.
The premise was that Bonners Ferry High School students would work with the restaurant staff, with 100 percent of the tips earned, as well as 5 percent of the dinner sales, all going to the Badger Boosters. The Badger Boosters aids in the funding of athletic, academic and club teams for grades 9-12.
“I think the last time they did it was about seven years ago,” said Shelly Kramer. “This year, with Tony Fleck and Tom Turpin, they decided to try it out.”
“We have to raise our own money, basically,” said Bonners Ferry High School Dance Team coach Lisa Dirks. “The other sports get a little money from the school, but dance team and cheer raise all their own money, so it helps out. Our fundraising doesn’t cover everything a lot of times, so Badger Boosters really helps us out in those areas.”
“It’s a good way for us to show community partnership, where we come together. They are raising money and we are just trying to help out,” said Tony Fleck, food and beverage manager/director for The Springs Restaurant. “It’s just a really good opportunity.”
Two to three student representatives from every team or group volunteered for Tip a Badger. There was one assigned to each server, several at the host stand, while others helped to clean tables. Some were ambassadors, walking around the tables of guests, answering questions about the program.
“It feels pretty energetic out there, it feels great. It’s something that I think it’s always good to do, work with local businesses, work with the local schools, and work together,” said Fleck. “There is just an energy that is created. It’s not about getting more people to come buy stuff, it’s about the community coming together and working together towards a mutual goal. It’s just a nice thing.”
Bonners Ferry High School student Kadi Bateman was all smiles as she started her shift at 6:40 p.m.
“We are doing a fundraiser,” she explained. “Everybody that comes here and eats, when they leave their tip, we get to take the money in for the Badger Boosters, and then they disperse it through each of the sporting programs. I’m enjoying it. It’s really fun. I’ve never done the Tip a Badger before. I didn’t even really know about it, until this year. It’s exciting!”
The students weren’t the only ones enjoying themselves. Former Bonners Ferry High School basketball coach Ken Robertson was there to have dinner. When asked why he came, he replied, “Just to support the Badgers. We have been Badger supporters, well me, my entire life. I’m a big Badger fan!”
Bonners Ferry High School Principal Kevin Dinning believes it is a benefit for the students to be able to interact with the community in a venue not typical to their day-to-day process, such as at sporting events.
“I think that it is a really great event,” said Dinning. “It gives our students a chance to talk to the community, interact with them. We get to watch our students work as opposed to just your typical fundraiser, because we are putting a service out there.”
“It’s really great to work with the Inn and The Springs Restaurant to allow us to do this,” Dinning added.
The buzz in the restaurant, Buddy Badger wandering around, waving at guests, and enthusiastic young men and women, working hard, proved Tip a Badger was a success for all involved. In the end, the Badger Boosters earned $1,600 to help further the extracurricular programs.