A different take on Friday night lights

A chance to give back


Emily Grossnicklaus

Zoe McCarthy (12) high fives a child who participated in the Friday Nigh Lights event, Sept. 25.

Camaraderie replaced competition. Hugs replaced tackles, and smiles replaced game faces.

Students and members of the community came together last Friday night but not for the typical football game.

Varsity Football hosted the 2nd annual Friday Night Lights game, Sept. 25.

The Friday Night Lights game is a recreation of a regular Friday football game held for Special School District children and Make-A-Wish Foundation patients: students who normally don’t get to, have the chance to play football, dance and a lot more.

“My favorite part was at the end when we took the group picture because it was all the kids that were there and everyone that was involved,” Mrs. Michelle Hunnius, event coordinator, said. “We know Eureka’s a great community, and this event really shows the spirit of our community. I think it went great. I am so excited because I already have ideas for next year, and I know Coach [Jake Sumner] wants to do it next year.”

Participants partnered with football players, varsity cheerleaders and Golden Line members. They got to play football and performed during halftime, like EHS students get to do every Friday.

“I liked the event a lot. It was really heartwarming. I cried a few times,” Michelle Thai, Golden Line dancer, said. “It makes you feel more like a family because they get to do what you usually do and you get to help them out. It was a really good time.”

The night was filled caring emotion and happiness. Volunteers and participants, alike, were overjoyed to be in attendance.

“It was a cool game for all of us football players. It really changed our perspective of the game, and it made us appreciate it more because it showed us how important it is,” Baylor Talcott, football player, said “I loved the game because the kids loved it beyond belief. Seeing all their reactions and how excited they were to play was awesome. My buddy was Lucas, and he had Down syndrome. I could see a smile on his face, and he loved to run the ball. That was fun.”

Friday Night Lights gave students a chance to do what they usually do while helping others.

“Me and my buddy cheered together. I taught her some cheers, and she taught me some cheers. We hung out together and bonded,” Kirstie Ruprecht, varsity cheerleader, said. “I was nervous at first because I wasn’t sure how to act around everyone, but they’re honestly just great spirited kids. It was a great time.”

The game experience even included the student spectator section.

“I was working with a student that has Cerebral palsy who wanted to be a part of the Catpound, and I assisted her the whole game. I helped her lead the chants and cheer on the game. I had fun with her and made sure she had fun,” Collin Berkaw, Catpound leader, said. “It was a nice game. It was fun watching those kids play, and it’s always special when we do something like that.”

More than 40 children ages 4-18 participated in the event, and more than 150 students volunteered.

“I thanked the football players at the end of the night, I thanked the cheerleaders and Golden Line, and they all were thanking me. They were so happy to be included,” Mrs. Hunnius said. “Everyone had fun for the night because how often do you have the chance to do something nice for somebody else.”

Donating any amount at the door gave people the chance to be a part of the event.  All proceeds went to Make-A-Wish. The event raised approximately $2,000, according to Mrs. Hunnius.

“I am excited that we have a new Make-A-Wish rep. My goal for EHS is to raise $5,000 to get a Wish Kid [a child with a life-threatening medical condition],” Mrs. Hunnius said. “All the kids that were there already had their wishes granted, so what they’d like to do is help other kids get a wish granted.”

This particular game may not have set any athletic records, but it certainly left a lasting impression on its participants.