‘Tis the season for giving. When scurrying about for those last minute gifts at the local mall, you see those famous Salvation Army red kettles out. Those who ring the bells remind us there are many who less fortunate in our communities. Many civic groups and churches rally to make the holidays a little brighter for those who may otherwise not have much under the tree or on the table for the big festive day.
Local high school teams have also come to the rescue to aid those in need. The high school in most towns is the de facto community center, particularly on game night. Young and old alike come out to support the teenage charges taking to the hardwood. With school budgets tight in a number of municipalities, many who take in the contests also assist in raising money to purchase uniforms and other essential gear. With this support comes a level of responsibility. Many on the receiving end know this and look for ways to give back.
Recently, Hermon assistant girls basketball coach Jessica Witham wrote to tell me how the Lady Hawks are doing just that. Along with head coach Chris Cameron the team decided they would adopt one area family this Christmas season. According to Witham, both the varsity and J.V. squads got involved in this philanthropic activity. While the idea was the brainchild of the coaches, it was the entire program who took ownership and ran with it.
The players did everything from funding, shopping together for presents, gift wrapping, etc. Coach Witham, while the head coach at Orono, did something similar during the holiday season. Not only has a family in the community been blessed by the team’s generosity, this gesture has also served as a great team building activity for the entire program.
Countless other teams give unselfishly to the places they call home in ways we may never know. Some schools have donation boxes near the front entrance to their gyms for people to leave money or food items to give to those in need. Others raise funds to give to organizations such as Toys for Tots, Manna, and The Salvation Army, just to name a few.
While we are especially reminded to give during the holidays, we should all look to think outside of ourselves all year long. This fall, the John Bapst football team gained a new fan, although she was unable to attend games. When the Crusaders took to the practice field every afternoon on Mount Hope Avenue in Bangor, Margaret, who is in her nineties, would watch the proceedings from the porch at her residence. Her home is the Eastside Rehabilitation and Living Center, which is located across the street.
As she continued to watch practice, one of the staff members at the home contacted the school on Broadway to see if a few players could stop by for a quick visit after practice. With the sun fading on an October afternoon, Margaret received much more than she could have ever anticipated. It was more than just a couple players who crossed the street, the entire team made their way over to brighten her day. Coach Dan O’Connell and players Harrison Dieuveuil and Spencer Baron presented gifts of a Crusaders winter hat, blanket, and shirt. One by one each team member came up to shake her hand and to thank her for supporting them.
Many teams using their positions within the community to raise awareness and funds for causes such as fighting cancer and ending domestic violence. In turn, by giving back, the teams often receive additional support for the things they need. In modern day vernacular they have learned to “pay it forward”
You see, being a part of a school’s athletic team is about so much more than what transpires during that one and a half or two hours of competition. It is about learning life’s lessons along the way. One of those great lessons that has the potential to be learned is putting others ahead of oneself, to sacrifice for the good of the whole. It is a lesson that is still in full evidence with many programs throughout our great state.
Merry Christmas from The Press Box!