An anonymous donor wants to ensure more Hillie athletes are on the field this year.

School Superintendent James Scully said an anonymous person donated $25,000 to the Haverhill High athletics department for the reduction of fees charged to students to play sports.

"We're extremely grateful," Athletic Director Tom O'Brien said. "This gives us another boost towards eliminating user fees."

O'Brien said the donation, which the district received earlier this month, could only be applied towards the reduction of sports fees. Although a distribution mechanism isn't finalized, O'Brien said the district has discussed establishing a foundation that would assist financially needy students interested in playing.

School Committee member Paul Magliochetti said he is excited to see such generous outreach from the community.

"It's nice to see that philanthropy happening in the city,'' he said.

In June, the school lowered student fees from $275 to $125 per sport due to a $70,000 appropriation in the school budget. Scully said he ultimately plans to eliminate the fees over several years.

Students on reduced-price lunch programs pay only $65 per sport and students on a free lunch program are not required to pay at all.

Haverhill High established the fees in 2002 to counter shrinking school budgets. The fees will raise $105,000 this year compared to $200,000 in years past.

Student participation increased this fall following the fee reduction. This fall, students taking part in football increased to 94 players from 64. Haverhill High athletics averages an enrollment of 800 student-athletes per year across 30 sports. Gifts and sponsorships from private individuals and organizations have long supported Haverhill athletics through donations of time and money.

Besides non-profit booster groups such as the Touchdown Club, Haverhill Public Schools have also struck deals with private companies such as Trinity Ambulance, which pays $25,000 per year for the naming right of Haverhill Stadium over the next three years.

"Any contribution is greatly appreciated," William Moynihan, president of the Haverhill Touchdown Club, said.

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