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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Brighton High student-athletes set aside practice to spruce up East Midvale Elementary

Dec 02, 2022 12:14PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Brighton High senior Caden Beames was one of 70 varsity and junior varsity football players who got off two buses at East Midvale Elementary one Friday.

The student-athletes weren’t there to sign autographs or watch youth play with the pigskin. They were volunteering to serve their community, spending a couple hours washing the walls and tables of the lunchroom, painting dinosaur footprints outside from the lunchroom to the playground, painting animals on the blacktop where students line up to enter the school, and helping a teacher with building shelves, desks and storage drawers for her classroom.

“We painted every animal we could think of like whales, pigs, dogs, birds, cows, bunnies, lions; I’m not even kind of an artist,” he said. “We were told that refugees from all over the world go to school and how, in a lot of cases, students don’t stay long, they come and go. It was really cool because they were just so thankful for everything.”

The football players, who at the time were in the state playoffs, gave up their practice that day to serve and said it was a good use of that time.

“It's just fun helping out the kids and people at their school,” Beames said, who also provided service this past year during a humanitarian trip to Ecuador. “People are appreciative, always so thankful and it makes me realize how lucky some of us are.”

Beames began playing football at age 8. Often, his mother serves as one of his teams’ supporters and was president of the little league. This year, she’s serving as Brighton High’s football board president for the second year.

“As a team, they perform a service project every year so as I was looking this year, one of my friend’s said she knew East Midvale needed a lot of help,” Lisa Beames said. “Our coach was so excited because the boys could give back to a school right here in our community and it would be hands-on, not just like asking people for money or having their parents make donations.”

Brighton Principal Tom Sherwood said once he learned of the opportunity, the school paid for the buses for the team. Adult volunteers and new coach Casey Sutera also helped.

“All our teams promote service, giving of themselves, their time and their talents, selflessly for the greater good of our community,” Sherwood said. “Coach Sutera really wants to build a program that focuses on character first. He wanted to be alongside his boys, rolling up their sleeves together and getting to work to make things better. It shows leadership, having our team give back to our community.”

Lisa Beames said the team also performed a service project this past summer under the direction coach Sutera.

“He is just amazing. He's such a strong believer that these students are much more than a team of athletes. It's about who you are on and off the field and helping play a part in these boys becoming good men as well as football players,” she said. “Instead of having a practice that Friday, he committed his team to do this. That shows who he is because most coaches are trying to find extra practice days and he actually gave up one. Personally, I've done this a lot of years with a lot of coaches and that was something shocking to me. It meant that much to him to give back and unite them with the community and each other. I think they came away with realizing that when you serve, what you get from it that means so much more and they learned they had to work together in a group in a different way than there used to. One of my favorite parts was seeing the kids who were in the after-school program become so excited to see these giant football players come in and how they were there to help their school.

East Midvale Community School Facilitator Shelley McCall was pleased with their work.

“I had reached out to our custodial staff and our teachers and asked, ‘Does anyone have projects that keep falling to the bottom of their to-do lists because there's so many other things that go to the top?’ and we put together seven different projects,” she said, adding that the team also cleaned the hallways, scrubbed recycling bins, repaired GaGa ball courts, picked up trash and updated emergency kits for students. “I was very impressed by their eagerness to work, their focus, their respectfulness, and their kindness. They were interested in our school and wanted to help. They were incredibly efficient and fast and so when they said we still have 20 minutes, I gave them chalk to write ‘East Midvale Eagles Soar’ on our brick back wall. The kids loved it when they came to school on Monday.”

After the Brighton student-athletes completed the list, they huddled together to recap the experience.

“I talked about meeting needs within your own community,” said McCall, who along with other Title I community school facilitators recently were honored by Canyons School District as student support services professionals of the year. “I think that sometimes you can get really dissociated from what's happening within our own school district and not being aware of what other families are struggling with. It is an important aspect of giving back to realize, for instance, there is food insecurity right here in Midvale and you don’t have to go oversees to help. They realize there are needs right here and they, and the teachers and parent volunteers, helped to meet those needs. Their coach was proud of the team and talked about how service is the highest level in leadership and how it’s important to have the ability to see outside yourself and to give your time and your resources.”