The Des Moines East football team’s most valuable player today may not be wearing a jersey or coaching outfit.
Instead, the MVP may be wearing a U.S. Postal Service uniform.
The team has received a number of donations and pledges of financial support in the wake of last week’s locker room fire that destroyed much of the program’s equipment.
East will start today’s opening of padded football drills with anticipation of helmets and shoulder, hip and thigh pads arriving. The Scarlets are preparing for their Aug. 24 season opener against visiting Ames at Williams Stadium.
“It’s like your softball team trying to practice without balls, bats and gloves,” East activities director Ric Powell said.
The fire, which was estimated to have caused between $100,000 and $150,000 in damage, occurred late on July 31. Helmets melted in the heat, electrical wires smoldered and new jerseys were charred. Replacement equipment was ordered the next day.
As of Wednesday afternoon, only seven helmets were in stock. An additional 22 boxes of equipment are expected to arrive soon, Powell said.
The fire wiped out changing areas for players, who now arrive ready to practice. Temporary bathrooms have replaced the facilities that players used at the stadium.
Newly arriving inventory is temporarily being stockpiled at East High’s school library.
“If we don’t get equipment soon, our team’s going to be behind the other schools,” Powell said.
But there are positive signs as East recovers:
* Two Iowa colleges donated a combined 200 practice jerseys and nearly 300 sets of practice pants. A local Nike sales representative delivered six boxes of Arizona State jerseys that can be used for practice.
* Valley will take donations from Friday’s football scrimmage and fall sports team introduction night to assist in the rebuilding effort. The event is being promoted by the school’s booster club.
* Other schools, such as Ames and Waukee, have offered to loan equipment or assist in other ways.
* Des Moines Public Schools workers were able to restore power to the stadium lights, which were illuminated on Tuesday for the first time since the fire.
“I’ve never been prouder to be a Des Moines schools employee,” Powell said.
School personnel are working with Iowa State Fair officials to try to organize a donation effort on Friday. The Fair, which opens today, is traditionally host to East Side Night — an informal reunion of East graduates and other community members — on the first Friday night of the Fair. As of Wednesday, the effort had not yet been approved, Powell said.