The Harry Hurst Middle School football team kicked off the school year with a service project, and in the end the team gave over 60 free car washes to veterans, first responders, and health care workers.
John Braud is in his third year as head coach of the team. He said the team was poised to do the service project for the first time last year, but Hurricane Ida skewered those plans.
“Philanthropy is important to me, and I think it’s important to teach at a young age,” Braud said. “I think it’s important to teach these kids. We did 40 vehicles in the first hour, and over 10 patrol cars total. We got to wash one fire truck, and that was awesome … they went ballistic.”
Braud said he came up with the idea for the project with his mother while they were brainstorming on something the team could do to give back to the community. Information about the car wash was spread via text messages, Facebook and through parents of team members.
Giving back to people who sacrifice so much for the community, Braud said, was a lesson he was happy to be able to teach to his players.
“My wife is a nurse, so I see it first-hand,” he said. “She’s overworked and underappreciated, and people need a ‘thank you.’ The kids had a blast. Success on the football field and winning games is always great, but being a productive member of society is that much more important. That’s my passion as a teach and a coach. Football isn’t just about football … it’s about life and it’s teaching them life skills. Giving back is one of those life skills.”
Team member Chance VanSufflin said his favorite part of the day was working with his teammates to help the firemen and policemen, and team member Ben Hall said inviting the cars in with signs and washing the fire truck was the highlight of his day.
“There are so many people that give to my generation without asking anything in return,” team member Rylan Madere said. “We gave to them as a thanks for their hard work in investing in us.”
HHMS Principal Dr. David Schexnaydre said service projects like the one organized by the football team are important because they teach students that they can have an impact on others through service.
“The core values of our school are honor, unity, respect, self-motivation, and tolerance,” he said. “Those are the values we are trying to grow and instill in our students, and giving them the opportunity to see how they can make an impact on someone else by just giving some of their time and effort is invaluable. While there will always be a focus on grades and academic achievement, we can’t forget that we are responsible for developing citizens who can be productive members of society. I hope they carry this experience with them and use it as a springboard to continue making a positive impact on their community and on those around them.”
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