Martha’s Vineyard football players play for a cause

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Members of the Martha’s Vineyard Junior High/Youth football team will use its four-game schedule to launch an innovative pledge fundraiser designed to turn every Vineyard point scored this coming season into dollars to help veterans. — Photo courtesy of Jeffery Schell

Early this month, a team of young Island athletes will compete this fall to bring help to returning Island veterans.

The Martha’s Vineyard Junior High/Youth football team will use its four-game schedule to launch an innovative pledge fundraiser designed to turn every Vineyard point scored this coming season into dollars to help veterans with physical, emotional, and financial issues.

Steve Quinn, head coach of the youth team, developed the idea as a way to help Island vets and to teach community outreach to his young players.

Mr. Quinn recently outlined his plan at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School practice field, as he watched team members participating in exercises under the watchful eyes of conditioning coach Jeff Scheller.

This summer, team members and coaches will fan out across the Island to collect pledges from businesses and individuals for their mission.

“We scored 40 points last year. Based on that, if we can get $1,000 in pledges per point, that would be $40,000 we could give to the Martha’s Vineyard VFW Post 9261 in Oak Bluffs for distribution,” he said.

“I’ve always wanted to do something for our military, give back for the lives they make and have made possible for us,” he said. “And it’s a good teaching tool. Like the military, football is about hard work, teamwork, and the guy next to you.”

The young men, and women cheerleaders, in our program are excited and looking forward to giving back in this way,” he said.

Fellow coach Zeke Vought, a Navy corpsman who served in Iraq in 2005, amplified that view.

“Personally, I thought military service is the most honorable thing you can do, and these kids, they internalize, personalize our service, and show respect to veterans like me,” he said.

Mr. Vought is no stranger to community service. Twenty years ago he served in City Year, a national inner-city community improvement organization.

Mr. Vought has been designated as the point man for the fundraising effort. In addition to coaches Micah Vought, Gustavo Simoes, and Jared Meader, on hand for the discussion were incoming VFW Post Commander Rich Berard and players Tristan Scheller, Christian Turner, Micah Vought, Kai Rose, James Murray, and Taylor Trudel.

Mr. Berard, who served with the 82nd Airborne Division in Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989, said the Post would honor the youth team at a season-ending dinner.

“These kids understand,” he said. “They all have an uncle, a parent, or another family member who has been or is in military service. Our members are all excited by this program. Society is becoming concerned about veterans again. I’d love for the kids to sit with people like Nelson Smith at the dinner. Nelson is 96, our oldest member, and a Word War II veteran.”

For now, the middle schoolers are on the practice field, conditioning themselves to give back to the Island community.