As it does every year, the Gig Harbor High School football team came together before Thanksgiving to make a difference for local families in the area. The Tides put together 325 compassion baskets for the needy, 50 bags of toiletries and T-shirts and three Thanksgiving meal baskets.
The compassion baskets included toiletries, snacks, T-shirts and other miscellaneous items, and were donated to the Tacoma Rescue Mission before the holidays.
The team has put together the compassion bags the last two years and have done the Thanksgiving dinners for four years, said coach Aaron Chantler.
Each year, the captains are in charge of everything regarding the Thanksgiving dinner: Collecting money, making a list for each meal, shopping for the food, and delivering the meals to the local family.
“It’s really cool to get in the community and see first-hand the people that need help, and to be able to help them,” said senior captain Alex Emery. “When you deliver them, you can see the families and see how thankful they are. That’s the difference. You can see an immediate impact you’re making.”
Along with Emery, the other captains this season were Mack Ditter, Marc Fletcher and Shawn Kimble. But this year, Chantler noticed a positive trend: It wasn’t just the captains getting involved.
“A lot of kids were fighting to be a part of it,” Chantler said. “There’s growth there. The first couple years, it was pretty isolated to the captains. As time has gone on, more and more guys are excited about it.”
It’s also a way for the football team to stay connected after the season ends. Working together to help families in need is a great way to continue to bond during the start of the offseason.
“Coming together extends our connection,” Chantler said. “We’re still connected throughout the end of December, regardless of how long our season lasts.”
And most importantly, it teaches the football players valuable lessons — not to take things for granted, to be grateful for what they have and to help others when they can. Some things in life are more important than football.
“It definitely shows that there’s a lot more to life than just football,” Emery said. “You can be about a lot more than football — be about helping other people. We’re pretty blessed with such a supporting community that supports our football team. It’s our responsibility to give back.”
Chantler preaches to his team to be grateful for the opportunity to play the sport.
“We’re pretty blessed to be where we are,” Chantler said. “There are so many people that are less fortunate than us. We try to put that perspective for the guys. We’re pretty lucky to play a game and coach a game. We talk a lot about legacy. They’ll remember what kind of people you are, not how much you won or lost. You might never see those people, but Gig Harbor football did something good for the community and that’s important.”