The connection between a high school football team and a town’s residents, old and young, is a tie that binds generations in so many communities throughout the country.
A team in South Dakota proved just how strong that bond can be last weekend. ABC News reported the heartwarming story.
Late last week, members of the Winner (S.D.) football team showed escorted elderly residents to the school’s homecoming parade. The players arrived at Winner Regional Healthcare Center Long-Term Care and wheeled residents to the festivities.
“They were flabbergasted when all those boys came in,” the school’s student council adviser, Mona LaCompte, told ABC News.
Many of the residents at the center are alumni of the high school. In the home of the two-time defending Class 11B state champions, seeing the town’s local stars arrive at the facility was no small thing.
“A lot of them wear Winner Warriors clothing on Fridays just because it’s football game day, so it was a really big deal for them,” Jody Engel, the hospital’s communications director, told ABC News. “In this town, those boys are kind of Gods. For them to come over, the residents were just ecstatic.”
The hospital’s activities director, DeAnn Woods, played a big role in getting the team there. With mobility issues and the parade’s route not favorable to the residents attending, she called LaCompte in hopes of coming up with something.
As ABC News reports, LaCompte then approached the school’s athletic director and football coach, Dan Aaker, about using the players to help transport them in their wheelchairs.
“He said, ‘If we’re going to do it, I want to do it as a team,” LaCompte recalled to ABC of the coach’s enthusiastic response.
“It ended up being the most amazing thing,” said LaCompte. “You wouldn’t believe the smiles on their faces.”
The Warriors went on to beat Chamberlain (S.D.) in the homecoming game, 36-13.
The parade, and the team bonding with some of the town’s oldest residents, will be an act that leaves a lasting impression beyond wins and losses.
“It’s monumental to them,” Engel told ABC News. “Being a small, rural community, the community is so tight knit. Everyone is really involved with supporting the kids and supporting the athletics. To be able to participate in something that is so much a part of the thread of the community makes them feel real again. It’s those normal everyday things they miss the most.”
Winner – being true to the town’s name, on and off the field.