Friday night's football is more than just a chance for two District 230 schools to battle it out. It's also a chance to honor veterans.
Sandburg Football Coach Dave Wierzal was the one who brought up the idea of honoring local veterans at Friday’s game against , while raising money for an organization that rebuilds houses for veterans.
Wierzal spearheaded the effort to start selling about specially made tshirts before the game, with proceeds all going to Homes4Heroes, a volunteer home repair service for veterans ran by New Lenox resident Bill Johnson.
Phil Bell, an Orland Park resident and graduate, was training at Fort Polk in Louisiana before heading to Iraq in 2004, while fellow graduates gathered to reacquaint and reminisce at his 10-year high school reunion.
“I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who didn’t go to that reunion for the same reason, and now in a way we can do that, “ said Bell, who also serves on Orland Park’s Veterans Commission. “This is a great chance for the community to meet the veterans, and for the veterans to meet the community. Hopefully it builds more connection. The kids have a lot to learn from vets and vets have a lot to garner from the community.”
With a day to go until the game, the tshirt sales have nearly exhausted the supply, Wierzal said. If the entire 1,080 shirts the Sandburg Eagles made for the game are sold, they will be able to donate $4,500 to Homes4Heroes just from the shirts, he added.
“My intent was in part to help kids learn the lesson of saying thank you to people who made a significant commitment to help us live and enjoy the type of freedoms we have,” Wierzal said. “We play football on Friday night while in another part of the world, soldiers are both preserving lives and our country for all of us.”
Donations will also be made to Homes4Heroes from concession sales during the game, where Frito Lay and Vienna Beef have offered to make 100 percent contributions, Wierzal said. Homes4Heroes will also operate a tent to educate attendees about their efforts.
“What I’m really enjoying about this experience is as busy and hectic as people are this time of year, the number of people who want to help and want to donate is just astounding,” Wierzal said. “It’s a testament that there are a lot of wonderful people making great things happen.”
Before Friday night’s game, veterans from all conflicts dating back to World War II will be honored and the American Legion Post 111 will present colors. The Sandburg Eagles Marching Band will be playing patriotic music at halftime and a donated fireworks show is scheduled for after the game.
“A lot of people honor veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we can’t forget about World War II, Korea, Vietnam,” Bell said. “Even if a service man or woman didn’t fight, they served in the military and were ready to defend us.
“There is a great buzz going on about this game. A lot people are excited about it. It’s a great way for friends to get reacquainted.”
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