Earlier this year, Rancho Mirage High School hosted a small gathering to celebrate the dedication of its football stadium to Dr. Jerry Argovitz, who donated $1 million to the school and started the Jerry Argovitz Sports Institute – a mentoring program for student athletes at the school.
A retired sports agent and former co-owner of the United States Football League’s Houston Gamblers, Argovitz took a special interest in the lives of the students he works with, including others who attend various schools from around the Coachella Valley.
Argovitz, 77, became like a father figure to some, and his wife, Loni Bader Arogvitz, grew to care for the kids like her own.
Then, Loni did something that surprised even her husband. She donated $250,000 of her own money to fund the first video scoreboard in the Coachella Valley.
An intimate gathering of about 50 invited guests met together Thursday for the official videoboard unveiling.
“My wife, Loni, is a special person,” Jerry Argovitz said. “Donating to this project was her idea, and she did it because she cares about these kids.”
Before Jerry and Loni met, about 10 years ago, Loni had a successful career in the hospitality industry, where she owned restaurants and a hotel in New York.
Since retiring to the desert, she has spent time organizing charitable efforts and donating to various causes, including Gilda’s Club, Desert Charities and Big Heart for Little Hearts of Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital. She is also the primary donor to the Steven Bader Immunological Institute at Hackensack University Medical center in Hackensack, N.J., which was named in honor of her late son.
After getting to know a number of the football players at Rancho Mirage, she wanted to do something special for them.
“These are my kids,” Loni Bader Argovitz said. “You know, how Jerry Lewis used to say, ‘These are my kids.’ We’ll, I’m closer to these kids than Jerry was [to his]. They are just a great group of guys.”
Member of the school’s football team and cheerleading squad were present to greet visitors and show their appreciation. Football coach L.D. Matthews was there to represent the football program, which will be the primary beneficiary of the new scoreboard.
“This is exciting,” said Matthews, whose team finished 9-3 in just its second varsity season. “We’re just so grateful for what they’ve done.”
The total cost of the video board was around $350,000, with $100,000 coming from the school district through other funding.
The video board will of course be used for all sports that play in Rattler Stadium – not just football. But the idea circulating Thursday evening was to use the video screen for more than just sporting events. With the state-of-the-art technology, the possibilities appear to be many.
“These kids mean a lot to me,” Loni Bader Argovitz said. “I wanted to do this on my own, so I did.”