How do you truly celebrate America’s favorite sport?
By bringing the people out to you — in order to celebrate a bigger cause for the communities across the Portsmouth area.
That’s exactly what West Portsmouth Tanks’ Operations Executive Paige Smith and Sandhill IPCC Church Pastor Gary Newman are doing when the Tanks play host to the Wheelersburg Buccaneers on Saturday evening at 5 p.m in what will be the season opener for both squads.
However, the contest goes much further than the game itself.
In fact, Sandhill IPCC and the Tanks are teaming up to host a ‘Tackle Hunger Night,’ where Newman and Smith are asking fans and players to donate at least two non-perishable food items to the cause.
For both individuals, the cause is an excellent one that was a no-brainer when the two thought about it further.
“Gary contacted me and asked me if I would be able to help him out with his food pantry,” Smith said. “I said, ‘Sure! Since the kids use the inflatables when they come to the games, anyway, I’ll just have everybody bring non-perishable foods.’ Then, I got to thinking about it and I just thought, ‘Well, I’ll just have all the players bring non-perishable items, too.’”
“Originally, we started helping the West Portsmouth Tanks with inflatables,” Newman said. “When the game with Wheelersburg came about, we just thought, ‘Well, this would be a good time to do it.’ You’re bringing two local communities together with that goal in mind to raise awareness for hunger by donating non-perishables for the kids.”
And so an idea was formed.
Sandhill IPCC, which is based in South Shore, Ky. has a low pantry for its children who are in dire need of food. Smith and the Tanks are providing a much-needed platform for these kids by allowing them the opportunity to gain the necessary meals needed for their own health and providing them with a chance to experience a football game.
“We’re very fortunate to have the community that we’re in,” Smith said. “This is just one way that we can pay them back for their efforts.”
Newman, who has started a “backpack fund,” has tried to send food home with the children on Sunday mornings. However, the pastor has more children in need that he and his Sandhill IPCC staff pick up as part of their bus ministry.
“Hopefully, more than anything, we’ll fill up those backpacks for the kids,” Newman said. “We’re hoping for big things. The Lord has really blessed our ministry with a lot of people.”
Newman’s struggle to get all of the Sandhill IPCC kids enough food certainly has Smith arguing that the main focus should be on the kids here in the homeland.
“I feel very fortunate to be in the United States,” Smith said. “However, there’s talk about hunger in third-world countries, and it’s like, we’ve got hungry kids right here who, when they get to school, get their only meal of the day at that school. We need to start with our own and make a difference there.”
And in Smith’s eyes, this cause represents a wonderful opportunity that brings football, ministry, and simple goodwill together.
“I hope that by helping out our local food bank, we’ll raise awareness that there are local kids in our community, including our neighbors, who only get one meal during the day, which is when they’re at school,” Smith said. “I hope that other people will realize that and take the time out to donate, even if it is just a couple of cans at the local grocery store, so that we can work to end hunger in our community and in the United States.”
In addition to ‘Tackle Hunger Night,’ three inflatables, including a bouncy house, a slide, and an obstacle course will be available for kids on Saturday evening. Ticket prices are $8.00 for adults, while children 12 and under will get in free. Veterans will also get in free by providing military I.D.
If non-perishable items cannot be brought to the contest, money donations will also be accepted, and if individuals have non-perishable items and wish to donate but cannot attend the Buccaneers-Tanks contest, contact Gary Newman at (740) 821-0766 to have the items picked up by Newman.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7