The Ralph Engelstad Arena is made up of 1.1 million bricks, each as important as the next. Remove one brick, and tarnish the shell of the University of North Dakota's iconic hockey arena.
Just as each brick makes up this great facility, every dollar counts in the funding of a student-athlete's education. With just $1 missing from a $1,500 scholarship, the scholarship would be incomplete.
Kermit and Ruth Rollefstad understand that, and their Fighting Sioux Club membership is proof. In 2002, they became Century Club ($120+) members, and in years past have contributed an "MVP" gift in addition to their membership dues.
"They say it's one-eleventh of a scholarship, but that's important," Kermit says. With just 10 more donations like theirs, a student-athlete scholarship can come to fruition. And UND's high-achieving student-athletes provide motivation to give to the program.
"The student-athletes have a good GPA, which is wonderful. We need that," Ruth says, indicating the role models seen in UND's 244 student-athletes who earned a 3.0 or higher grade-point average last fall. She acknowledges the student-athletes wouldn't be able to achieve that if they had to balance work on top of going to practice and attending class.
That feeling of giving something that otherwise may be unattainable is important to the Rollefstads, whose daughter, Lisa, is an assistant track and field coach at UND.
Their Fighting Sioux Club membership is also a building block in North Dakota Spirit | The Campaign for UND, which strives to dedicate $300 million to UND's passionate students and student-athletes, inspirational faculty, innovative programs and extraordinary places.
Ruth says she sees frequent examples of her peers showing their North Dakota Spirit. "These people get behind the athletes and students no matter where they're going," she said. "People in North Dakota are very good at supporting each other." She and fans like her are reveling in the success of the men's and women's hockey teams this season. "They're representing the state of North Dakota," Ruth said.
Kermit, an avid tailgater, likes to show his North Dakota Spirit by showing hospitality toward opposing teams and their fans. He recalls a time in 2004 when Ferris State (Mich.) played at the Alerus Center. His group and other UND fans shared food with Ferris State tailgaters.
"The comradeship was wonderful," Kermit said. "They thought we were great people, and if they came back, we'd feed them again!"
The hockey and football season-ticket holders say they were motivated to get involved because they have been lifelong UND football and hockey fans. "We always liked hockey, and we couldn't get in," Kermit said. "It's real fun when the place is full and the parking lots are full."
These days, the Cavalier, N.D., couple doesn't miss a Saturday home game, and they make sure their Friday night tickets get used. They're having fun this season, and are keeping an eye out as the women's hockey team continues to make a name for itself in the WCHA.
"It's great fun to watch them," Kermit said.
The Rollefstads are keeping tabs on the men's hockey team as it advances in postseason play. They're looking forward to next year's hockey series at the Ralph against the University of Minnesota, as well. "If you can't get excited about the Gophers, you can't get excited about anything."