It would be hard to find something more important for the Bridgeport High School football team than their Class AA playoff game Friday with Robert C. Byrd. It would be a daunting chore to find something more critical for the BHS cheerleaders than their state tournament appearance next month.
Yet on Wednesday, both programs dealt with something that dwarfed both of those. The senior football players and cheerleaders were in Morgantown at WVU Medicine Children’s, part of WVU Hospitals, to take part in the 20th Annual Lacey Neff Q for Kids Radiothon.
While there, the players made a donation to the hospital for $5,745. It was part of the “TD’s 4 TOTS” program the football team and cheerleaders have teamed up with for the past several years.
“Starting in August the players and cheerleaders get a pledge form,” said Travis Jones, “The Voice of the Indians,” who helps organize the program. “They go out and solicit pledges in $1 amounts per touchdowns scored during the regular season.”
This year, the team scored 50 touchdowns. That, along with a donation by the program sponsor MVB Bank, resulted in what Jones said the highest single donation made to date.
The program, said Jones, is more than just about money being donated. He said it’s important to the growth and maturity of the players and it allows them to see their own blessings of good health. And on Wednesday they had another surprise.
“Not only did the group get to tour the children’s wing of the hospital, but we got to visit Eli Martin who is a patient there,” said Jones. “The students really were able to see they had a chance to brighten his day.”
Martin is a Bridgeport resident and a student at Simpson Elementary School. He’s also a pretty big football fan and a member of the Bridgeport Pee Wee White team, said Jones.
“Eli was thrilled. I guess they told him the players and cheerleaders were coming and before we got there several doctors were in the room,” said Jones. “His mother told them her son was going to be preoccupied for a little bit because the Bridgeport football players were coming to see him. I think this type of visit certainly spells out the importance of what the program means on every level.”
Jones said BHS has a strong history of community involvement in helping youth and others. He said it’s one of the things helping make Bridgeport special.
"This program, and so many other things that are done like Shop for Tots, prepares these students as they go into their next phase and for those going into college it helps them when they have service projects,” said Jones. “ … It’s a great opportunity to give back and experience something that’s bigger than football and cheerleading and to realize how lucky they are to be healthy enough to do those things.”
Along with getting a chance to visit, BHS has students interviewed. Jake Bowen and Isabella Cunanan were interviewed on WVAQ by Jaime Ames.
“We’ve raised close to $15,000 so far and we hope to make it bigger next year by getting everyone aggressive in their efforts to get pledges,” said Jones. “I truly believe we can get this to $10,000.”