Matthew Fraase earned the nickname the “Unbiased Bison Admin” because, he said, his friends noticed how “level-headed” he is. To prove his point, he answered a question on Facebook with a fundraising goal: “How much money would it take to get you to wear a JMU jersey on Friday night?”
The answer was $500, all donated to the Central Cass Treehouse charity.
“A James Madison fan had asked me, ‘how much would it cost me to actually get Matt to wear a JMU jersey and gear in the Fargodome?’” Fraase said. “The wheels started turning and I thought, ‘What if I set a little high or low … and give it to charity?’”
Central Cass Treehouse is a nonprofit dedicated to helping students in need of all grade levels get school supplies, food baskets and other items. Based in the greater Fargo, North Dakota, area, the organization told Fraase of its financial worries this winter and the potential to not meet its annual demands.
The Go Fund Me page reached nearly $13,100 five days after the page’s creation.
“To me, it’s exactly what these fan bases are,” Fraase said. “They’re passionate, they’re caring people and are just good folks.”
Fraase’s efforts are one of many happening between Dukes and Bison fans. An additional fundraiser launched for the Great Plains Food Bank raised upward of $6,800 — the food bank is the only one in the state but works with over 200 food pantries. Great Plains Food Bank’s Communications Manager Jalen Slinde said every $1 donation to the charity provides three meals — the funds allowed the Food Bank to provide nearly 21,000 meals across the state.
“Hunger is a serious issue,” Slinde said. “There are over 150,000 individuals in a year that are going to turn to the Great Plains Food Bank, so we pick up from those who have it and give to those who need it.”
Fraase and Slinde agree on why they think these fundraisers have grown so much — the two say JMU and NDSU fans support each other as friends despite the bitter rivalry on the field. While the fan bases are passionate about their respective teams, at the end of the day, Dukes and Bison fans know the game is for fun, and helping those in need is more important, as stated by Fraase.
After the 2019 national championship, the Bison couldn’t make the trip home due to mechanical issues with their original plane. What did the Dukes do to help? They offered their charter to NDSU after returning to Harrisonburg so both teams could return home safely.
“There’s so much positive that comes out of something like this,” Slinde said. “It’s just something that we can all get behind. So, the fact that we can all come together and recognize the good this does is just outstanding.”
The fundraisers brought national recognition, with The Washington Post sharing what happened and how Fraase’s efforts are helping the community. The fundraiser provided more donations from other FCS programs around the country — including from SDSU and Villanova — and spread awareness for these charities.
Fraase held true to his word. Despite the bitter wind and snow, he was decked out in purple and gold Friday afternoon. JMU Sports Blog led the Dukes Defeat Hunger campaign as it increased when game day arrived.
“JMU fans have stepped up to help a community halfway across the country,” the Twitter account said before Friday’s game. “Let’s keep going. Every little bit helps.”
While the Bison were victorious in the semifinals game, funds rolled in for both charities days after the game ended.
Fraase’s charity finished with over $15,000 — his goal once his page took off — on the final day people could donate.
Dukes Defeat Hunger charity:
Contact Madison Hricik at email@example.com. For more football coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.