Holiday Spirit Burns Bright In Phs Seniors

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A needy Payson family has reaped the rewards of an idea hatched at a Longhorn football senior retreat.

At the player and coach camp out in July at Bear Lake, the seniors gathered around a roaring campfire to revel in a few minutes of camaraderie they hoped would help carry them through what was sure to be a trying final season at Payson High School.

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Tyler Williams (34) and other senior football players implement a program to provide Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to needy families.

In addition to the usual "win state" and "one-for-all-and all-for-one" gridiron-speak, players and coach Jerry Rhoades mulled over the idea of doing a project that would center on giving back to the community.

The seniors said they wanted to be remembered for being more than just football players.

That idea struck home with Rhoades.

"I remember when I was coaching years ago in Yuma," he said. "A local service club would give the coaches $100 gift certificate to Mervyn's and the name of a needy kid."

Clutching the gift certificate, the coaches escorted the children on a shopping trip to the local store.

"The kids could buy whatever they wanted," Rhoades said. "It was great fun for the kid and the coach."

When the seniors were told of their coach's experiences in Yuma, they settled on a similar project in Payson between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

After some discussion, the seniors agreed that the PHS football project would be to purchase a food basket for each holiday and hand deliver them to a deserving Rim country family.

The plan began to come together the afternoon of Nov. 22 when senior Tyler Williams' mother, Lori Purtill, volunteered to do the food shopping for the players.

With $250 from the football club, she scoured local grocery stores choosing all the food items needed for a complete, lip-smacking holiday dinner.

"We also wanted enough leftovers for those days after (the holiday)," Rhoades said.

The completed basket, which included ham, turkey, sweet potatoes, vegetables, pies, dressing and beverages, was delivered that afternoon by Kyle Sachak, Williams and Rhoades to a family recommended by school officials.

"The family's eyes lit up when they saw it," Rhoades said. "They were so grateful."

The seniors agreed the Thanksgiving project should be a part of their legacy at PHS.

"We want all the teams in the future to continue doing it," Williams said.

But before the seniors legacy is complete, they have another holiday project to finish -- a Christmas food basket.

The players are now in search of another family in need. Anyone who knows of such a family, can nominate them by calling Rhoades at (928) 474-2233.

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