MOON LAKE — Steve Loveless knows how to make his third-graders' day.
He gives them time to work on computers and interactive SMART boards in his Moon Lake Elementary School classroom.
With budgets tight and demand for supplies increasing as more teachers incorporate technology in their lesson plans, though, it's become harder for the growing school to afford the hardware, software and replacement materials. A bulb for one type of LCD projector, for instance, costs $300.
"It's something that is very important, but the little things can build up," media technology specialist Joanne Branham said.
To make up the gap, Moon Lake has decided to sponsor a golf tournament on June 5 at Beacon Woods Golf Course.
In past years, fundraisers have proved hit or miss for Moon Lake, a school with 73 percent of its students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches. Quite often, schools in low-income areas such as this one struggle to sell a box of candy, much less rustle thousands of dollars from the community for a golf outing.
That type of big money event traditionally has been the realm of schools in more affluent areas.
But those schools' successes in drawing business sponsorships and participant entry fees from folks who would be playing golf anyway has Moon Lake Elementary, among other schools, looking to incorporate the idea themselves.
"Granted, our population is different," said Loveless, who's organizing Moon Lake's tournament. "But why can't we try?"
Officials at Superior Bank's Port Richey branch had a similar thought when they offered to organize a golf tournament for nearby Chasco Elementary, where free and reduced-price meals go to 77 percent of the students.
"We were looking to get highly involved in the community, and one thing that stood out to us was the budget and the lack of funding" in schools, branch manager Doug Doran said. "So we approached the school."
The bank has already signed up 30 golfers for its June 26 event at Seven Springs Golf Club. It hopes to bring in a few thousand dollars to go toward Chasco's art and music programs, which Doran said are frequently the first things to get cut in a tough economy.
Chip Wichmanowski, executive director of the Pasco Education Foundation, said that many schools have begun looking to raise money in ways that do not involve selling merchandise to parents. Activities such as golf tournaments have several positive aspects, he said, not the least of which is creating stronger ties with the broader business community.
"You can't ever place enough emphasis on that," Wichmanowski said, noting the importance of such ties to the schools.
Events have another benefit over sales, he said, in that the planners know at a certain point exactly how much money they will generate. Plus, golfers who plan to hit the links often won't mind paying a little extra for a good cause, he added.
That's how Branham is pitching the idea to friends she knows who golf.
"They like to play golf," she said. "Why not play it for us?"
The idea for Moon Lake's tournament emerged during a conversation of the school's media technology committee. Loveless, who used to plan similar events while living in upstate New York, suggested a golf tournament as a way to generate potentially large donations through sponsorships and greens fees without burdening parents with buying from a catalog.
The school already had two of its most successful sales — candles and cookie dough — earlier in the year, noted PTA president Mary Tavo, the school's PE teacher, who also has two sons attending there. The school also held a walk-a-thon that generated more than $3,000.
Going to the same source again seemed less likely to net another big take.
"It's not as easy as it might be at some other schools" to raise lots of money, principal Elise Landahl said. "But I do think they do what they can. … We are moving in the right direction."
The golf tournament can become a new tradition that boosts Moon Lake Elementary, she said.
So far, the school has drawn about 10 teams of four, with a goal of at least 10 more. It also has gotten sponsorships for seven of the 18 holes.
The PTA is sponsoring the giveaways, with plans to splash the Moon Lake name over everything so the school's positive reputation spreads. It also is looking into a putting contest for students at the school. Anything to help the school and generate some goodwill, Tavo said.
"I love traditions," she said. "I hope we can get even more traditions here. The more the better."
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.