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Grapes & Grain Sets New Record in Fundraising for URI Women’s Athletics

KINGSTON, R.I., July 12, 2017 – The 8th annual An Evening of Grapes & Grain fundraiser raised a record high $131,000 to support University of Rhode Island women’s athletics as close to 300 guests attended the popular fundraiser held recently on the lawn of URI President David Dooley and Lynn Baker-Dooley’s home on the Kingston campus. 

Each year, Lynn Baker-Dooley leads the efforts of Grapes & Grain, which has become the University’s signature annual fundraiser supporting the development of female workforce leaders through academics and participation in college athletics. 

“I am passionate about women’s athletics and excited to be a part of this event which continues to attract alumni and former student-athletes, as well as members of the community and supporters of women’s athletics, from across the state and beyond. The impact of this event on our women student-athletes of all sports is significant,” said Baker-Dooley.

This year’s event chair was a champion of URI women’s athletics, Melissa Blaney Lavallee ’79. Melissa Blaney was a top high school volleyball player in New York in the 70s who only joined URI’s team by chance. She helped lead the team, as a junior, to nationals, and went on to serve as team captain. Thanks to Title IX’s implementation, she was, as a sophomore, awarded a scholarship at URI – one of two made available to volleyball players. The scholarship was an enormous help and Lavallee thrived as she played a sport she loved.

“An Evening of Grapes & Grain provides the URI women's athletic programs with resources not covered in the budget, whether it may be special equipment, travel opportunities or whatever the coach feels is needed,” Lavallee said. “I am thrilled that we surpassed our goal thanks to our sponsors, as it will have a tremendous impact on the women's athletic program at URI!”

Women’s basketball coach Daynia La-Force agreed, saying she looks forward to Grapes & Grain every year. “Not only does it give our staff the opportunity to meet so many of our generous supporters, it also serves as a significant fundraiser for our program which, in turn, allows us to further enhance our student-athletes’ experience during their four years here at URI,” she said.

Funds raised are disbursed as grants made in response to requests from coaches to help improve their programs and enhance their recruitment efforts. For Laurie Feit-Melnick, head coach for women’s cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field programs, the funds raised at Grapes & Grain have helped in numerous ways.

“This fundraising event has benefited our program by enhancing our locker room and office,” she said. “In addition, the purchase of track and field equipment and specialty gear has helped our student-athletes compete at a higher level.”

Highlights of funded projects from the past year include: 

Women's Basketball International training trip
Women's Swim and Dive New starting blocks for swimming pool,
championship uniforms 
Women's Rowing Temporary boathouse structure,
new equipment
Women's Tennis Increased competitive travel budget
Women’s Track & Cross County Starting blocks and cart, pole vault poles
Women’s Soccer Fence, training goals, training equipment
Women’s Softball Fence/wind screen, fence caps, bases
Women’s Volleyball Improved facility ventilation, recruitment support

Shelagh Donohoe, head coach of women’s rowing, said the money raised at Grapes & Grain has a direct impact on the success of her program. “It has allowed us to buy equipment that enabled us to train at the level needed to win our Atlantic 10 championship,” Donohoe said.

Of the money raised at the event, held on June 10th, 25 percent goes to the Eleanor R. Lemaire Endowment, which funds enhancements to the women’s student athlete experience, team operational budgets and other special initiatives. Ellie Lemaire, who had a lengthy and distinguished career in athletics at URI, was a nationally known champion of women’s athletics and an advocate for the passage of Title IX. Lemaire served as event chair in 2016.

The event would not be possible without our many sponsors. For the fifth consecutive year, Jane Costanza, owner of Wakefield Liquors, has provided generous support by bringing together an amazing selection of wine and beer for all to enjoy.  Special thanks to Jeff Baran, manager of Wakefield Liquors and coordinator of all the wine and food placements and every detail imaginable. Cox Business has been a major sponsor, for the past three years, of An Evening of Grapes & Grain.

For more information visit An Evening of Grapes & Grain.