Cavs make a difference

Published 10:18 pm Friday, November 11, 2016

The Lakeland High School cafeteria was filled with smiling faces and helping hands Wednesday afternoon for the Operation Christmas Child packing party event.

Student-athletes from the football and field hockey teams gathered around tables to stuff shoeboxes with toiletries, toys and school supplies to send off to kids in impoverished countries who otherwise would not receive a gift through the annual Samaritan’s Purse program.

Other students from the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization joined in as well.

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Maddy Carr, a Lakeland field hockey player, pitched the project to both teams. For the past three weeks, the field hockey and football teams had been bringing in toys and hygiene products, and donations were welcomed from the whole school.

Carr has done the program with her family since she was young and decided to share the idea with the Lakeland community.

“I knew this would be an excellent opportunity to create team bonding and Lakeland team unity,” Carr said about the Operation Christmas Child project. “It’s very encouraging to see so many people participating and bringing items. It’s also a really good cause. I think it’s great to show everyone how awesome it is to help those less fortunate than us.”

Both head coaches were on hand for the packing party and were happy to see their players step away from the field temporarily and take time to give to others.

“This group of girls is pretty awesome. They are all very compassionate, caring and kind young ladies,” Lakeland field hockey coach Cortney Parker said. “When they approached me about doing the Operation Christmas Child shoebox project, I wasn’t surprised. I was super proud of them for organizing the entire thing. The football team was involved. We like to support each other. It’s a field hockey/football thing, and Coach Knight was on board too. It shows people the type of student-athletes that we have at Lakeland.”

The students packed about 30 shoeboxes and Carr and Riley Richardson, a Cavs senior football player, dropped them off at a pickup site. Everyone from athletes to coaches valued the opportunity to represent their programs and communities in a positive manner.

“It was a overall great experience, and it felt really good for us to help those less fortunate than us,” Richardson said of Operation Christmas Child. “We realized while doing this through the weeks that even if some of us have it rough, there’s always someone somewhere who has it a lot worse.”

“I think everything went very well,” said Autumn Thompson of Lakeland’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “We don’t know where the boxes will be distributed, but everyone genuinely cared and put time into “stuffing their box” with items they knew the recipient may want and need.”

“Knowing that we were going to help little kids have a nice Christmas means a lot,” Lady Cavs field hockey player Alex Kinsey said. “It also shows us how blessed and fortunate we are to receive gifts or to even be here for the holidays.”