Small senior project grows to $3 million campaign

From the beginning, Loomis student Liz Scherer’s goal was relatively modest. For her senior project, the 17-year-old decided to raise seed money for a long-overdue pool replacement at Del Oro High School.

In 2008-2009, she raised $10,000, reportedly a record for any student’s senior project at the school.

This week, thanks to the staying power of Scherer’s senior project and to the efforts of donors and businesses throughout Loomis, Del Oro broke ground on a new swimming pool and softball field after supporters raised more than $2.3 million and received commitments for another $400,000.

And backers say the project that started small is on its way to amassing the $3 million needed.

Scherer, now 24, said she never imagined that her efforts while in high school would trigger another six years of community fundraising. She began swimming competitively as a freshman at Del Oro, so when her water polo coach and mentor suggested she raise the money as her senior project, she dived in.

She said the experience gave her a love of event-planning and community involvement. She graduates this month from California State University, Sacramento, with a degree in national business and marketing, she said.

Scherer had help in raising the initial $10,000. She credits her mentor, now-retired water polo coach Lindi Callahan, who continued the fundraising drive, as well as Loomis parent Grace Kamphefner, chairwoman of Friends of the Del Oro Pool.

The high school pool was built in 1969 and was in need of regular repair well before Scherer tackled her senior project. For at least the last three years, Del Oro swim competitors have not been able to host a meet, backers said.

“We’re always either traveling away or using the Sierra College Pool for our competitions,” Kamphefner said.

The $2.3 million raised to date includes $1 million in matching funds from the Kamphefner family. With added commitments from Placer County and the Placer Union High School District, backers say the final push to reach about $3 million should go quickly.

Kamphefner said raising large funds for a public school capital project can be difficult since most facilities are paid for with government dollars. “These funds just haven’t been available,” she said. She said her daughter is a junior at the school, so she will be able to take advantage of the pool for one full year before her graduation.

The existing pool, which serves the Loomis Basin Dolphins recreational swim team as well as the school swim team, is vulnerable to cracks and is ill-designed for competitive swim and polo needs, she said. Further, it cannot accommodate the region’s increased needs for a swim facility, she said.

The replacement project will be a 14-lane pool, with 12 lanes at 7-foot depth and two lanes with a 4-foot depth, Kamphefner said. The pool, with a target opening date of early May, is planned for the site of the school’s existing softball field. Work also began this week on relocating the softball field elsewhere on school grounds, with completion targeted for early March.

Kamphefner said she has been impressed with the community support. Children have emptied their piggy banks, mothers have held jam sales and groups such as Loomis Lions, the Cowpoke Foundation in Loomis, the Loomis Sunset Rotary and American Legion Post of Loomis are among those “who have come forward and said ‘We would like to help you with the fundraising.’ ”

“It has been an incredible community spirit that has made this a special project.”