Walton football perseveres for food pantry

Patricia Wood Walton Central School DistrictFrom left, Deacon Phoenix, Garrett Johnson, Blaine Klinger and Ethan Miller of Walton’s football team collects bins of non-perishables as part of the team’s Crush Tackles for Hunger program.

Despite New York’s high school football seasons being canceled over COVID-19 restrictions, the Walton Warriors boys varsity team successfully ran its Crush Tackles for Hunger program, collecting non-perishable food items for the Walton Food Pantry.

“It’s a great thing for our community. The kids always look forward to it, our players, and the elementary kids really love seeing the Walton Warrior football players come in and visit them,” Walton football coach Adam Hoover said Wednesday.

The program is organized by Patricia Wood of Walton Elementary School, along with a group of parents who call themselves the “spaghetti moms,” Hoover said. In a normal season, they’re the parents responsible for the team’s weekly Thursday evening spaghetti dinners and end-of-season banquet.

This year, the team worked around in-school COVID-19 guidelines and created a video to send to the elementary school students.

“(Patricia Wood), she’s the one who asked me this year if we were going to do it. She does a lot for our community in general. So she kind of, with the circumstances, realized our local food bank could use food this year more than most years,” Hoover said.

Normally, the team’s seniors go to the elementary school and give a presentation in each classroom about teamwork and helping the community. The Warriors challenge the students to bring as many non-perishables in as possible by pitting the elementary, middle and high schools against each other.

The program runs in the weeks leading up to Walton’s homecoming game, where the team also puts out non-perishable donation bins. After the collection period ends, the seniors return to collect the food and bring it to the pantry.

Despite the pandemic, Hoover estimates that the team was able to collect just as much food this year as previous years.

“We were actually able to have some of the players wear their uniforms, wear their jerseys and go over and physically pick up the food and pop into a few classrooms to thank the kids,” he said. “Not as much as we normally do with the guidelines we have to follow but showed the appreciation.”

“It’s interesting,” he added. “You see some of the guys who are more quiet leaders on the team kind of become more outgoing when they’re around little kids. It’s really kind of cool to see.”

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