Throughout the months of November and December, student athletes involved with the Bullard High School athletic department were hard at work trying to make a difference in the lives of others in the East Texas community through two different fundraiser events.
The first fundraiser held by the BHS athletic department was during the final two months of the football regular season, when members of the Bullard Panther football program collected money for an organization benefitting local cancer patients.
“Of course everyone knows that the month of October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” said Shannon Wilson, Bullard Independent School District Athletic Director. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve always thought what we can do about it rather than just talking about it and wearing pink the entire month. As a football staff, we talked about it and found out about a local organization called FitSTEPS for Life, which is an exercise organization free to cancer patients and cancer survivors. We felt it was a very worthy cause for us to contribute to this season.”
According to the organization’s website, FitSTEPS for Life is an individualized exercise and nutrition program designed to improve the physical and mental functioning, quality of life, and survival of people living with cancer. It includes aerobic, strength, flexibility and core training. The program is designed to assist cancer survivors in achieving and maintaining as much functional mobility and endurance as possible during their cancer experience.
All types of cancer patients are eligible for rehabilitation through FitSTEPS For Life, such as breast cancer, lung cancer, head and neck cancer, prostate cancer, brain cancer, myelomas, colon cancer, leukemia and lymphoma. Each exercise program is specifically designed to meet the patient’s individual needs and tailored to their requirements regardless of their type or stage of cancer, physical limitations, or phase of treatment.
According to Wilson, members of the Panther junior varsity football team collected money from Panther football fans in the stands of the varsity football games. Additionally, the BHS athletic program partnered with the Bullard Panther junior varsity and varsity cheerleaders, collecting money by selling cancer awareness wristbands, among other fundraising opportunities.
For their efforts over the past two years, the BHS athletic department and BHS cheerleaders were able to collect a total of $2,400.
“It’s really great that this money is going to this organization and not just for merchandise and other things,” said Wilson. “As the athletic director, I believe that we sometimes get caught up into wearing the pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we think that’s all we need to do. We were able to challenge our entire department to step up and actually do something about fighting cancer. Our athletes realized that by working to collect the money, we were actually going to do something in this fight. I believe everyone can say that they have known someone that has either passed away from cancer or battled cancer, so it really hits home. I’m very proud of our kids for stepping up and helping others out in their time of need.”
Additionally, the BHS athletic department’s athletes learned a valuable lesson in giving rather than receiving at Christmastime, as the program participated in a giving project Wilson calls “Project Adoption.”
“We’ve also participated in Project adoption for as long as I’ve been here, so almost seven years now,” said Wilson. “The gifts we collect through Project adoption come from the generous donations by our athletes and their parents. We try to help locally, making sure that local children have gifts to open on Christmas Day. With so many people in this area working in the oil fields, it’s been an up-and-down year for that industry; we all go through hard times. One of the cool things about this project is that the athletes and parents really step up to the plate and deliver big for this project. It’s just like Christmas Day for me to see these kids receive these gifts.”
Wilson said that Project Adoption started off as the BHS athletic department supporting one family, but has grown exponentially to where the program gave away gifts to 21 kids this year.
“We were able to support a total of 21 kids this Christmas,” said Wilson. “Each kid received six to seven presents each, so they all had a great Christmas Day. We had approximately 120 athletes and their parents give to Project Adoption this year.”
According to Wilson, the support of the Bullard community was essential to both BHS athletic department events this year.
“I couldn’t be more thankful and pleased with the outcome of the FitSTEPS and Project Adoption fundraisers because the Bullard community is second-to-none when it comes to giving to others,” said Wilson. “When people are in need, I feel that our community is always there to help out. Even with the Kayla Gomez case, there were over 1,000 people from the Bullard and East Texas communities willing to give of their time to search, while others donated food and water for the various law enforcement agencies. We are blessed to live in a community such as Bullard.”