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Lemmon, Pyle help programs

Irvine and Newport Beach residents are raising money for local high school sports teams.

February 04, 2012|By Joe Haakenson, Special to the Daily Pilot

Guy Lemmon created the Ryan Lemmon Foundation 16 years ago to "enhance" high school baseball. Now, he's trying to save it.

Lemmon, an Irvine resident, believes high school baseball and other high school sports face being eliminated because of a lack of funds, and his foundation is doing everything it can to prevent that from happening.

The State of California's budget crisis has impacted public schools, but a recent ALCU ruling is threatening the very existence of many high school sports, according to Lemmon.

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That ACLU ruling, which resulted from a recent lawsuit, prohibits public schools from requiring students to pay any fees related to playing high school sports, and the trickle down effect on high school programs is only beginning to manifest itself.

"Some schools and some districts don't charge very much and some charge quite a bit," Lemmon said. "But because of this ruling you can't do that anymore. If you decide to run a program, you must offer it for free. If you can't offer it for free, then don't offer it.

"Now the schools cannot ask for that money from the parents. The only thing the school can do is suggest a donation. What coaches are seeing happen is people are just not giving money anymore."

Lemmon said one Orange County athletic director told him his football program typically received $35,000-$40,000 from the players' parents to fund the program, but when the ACLU ruling required that the school's letter to parents at the start of the season include wording that emphasized any donations were voluntary, the school received just $5,000, threatening the future of the program.

"Some sports at some schools had gotten too expensive, so they rifle-shot this idea, 'Oh, we'll eliminate these fees,' but the unwitting result is that because no one is obligated to pay, the parents say, 'I won't pay, the schools will figure it out.' The near-term result is athletic programs are immediately being impacted."

Lemmon is passionate about his mission now, but it's not what he envisioned when he started the foundation in 1996, named for his son Ryan, who was killed in a car accident two years earlier in 1994.

Ryan Lemmon had been a standout baseball player at Woodbridge High, graduating in 1993, and had finished his first year at Pepperdine before the accident.

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