High school football players escorted elderly residents at a nursing home in South Dakota to the homecoming parade on September 29.
Winner is a small town in southern South Dakota with a population of less than 3,000 people. There’s only one main school district, and the whole town is very invested in its football team.
Last Friday, the Winner Warriors football squad showed up at Winner Regional Healthcare Center Long-Term Care to give elderly residents a chance to join in on the homecoming festivities.
Senior fullback and Homecoming King Ty Bolton told DailyMail.com that this event was his favorite part of the homecoming festivities.
‘As the team walked into the door, the staff, patients, and players all had smiles on their faces knowing that a good deed was being given back to the community,’ he said.
High school football players in Winner, South Dakota, stopped by a nursing home to escort elderly residents to the homecoming parade on September 29
Residents didn’t think they’d be able to attend the homecoming parade this year because many of them have mobility issues and the route doesn’t pass the center
The hospital’s activities director DeAnn Woods and school student council adviser Mona LaCompte worked with the football team’s coach Dan Akkers to have the Winner Warriors squad wheel the residents to the parade route
‘They were flabbergasted when all those boys came in,’ LaCompte said. ‘You wouldn’t believe the smiles on their faces.’
The residents were thrilled to be escorted by the players who were ‘celebrities’ of the event
‘They were flabbergasted when all those boys came in,’ the school’s student council adviser, Mona LaCompte, told ABC News.
Many of the residents are alumni of the high school.
‘I personally did not know any of the Long Term Care residents but have heard many of the names of the patients,’ Bolton said. ‘Some of the patients names are on banners in our gym for certain athletic achievements.’
Jody Engel, the hospital’s communications director, said: ‘A lot of them wear Winner Warriors clothing on Fridays just because it’s football game day, so it was a really big deal for them.
‘In this town, those boys are kind of Gods. For them to come over, the residents were just ecstatic.’
Residents didn’t think they’d be able to attend the homecoming parade this year because many of them have mobility issues and the route doesn’t pass the center.
The hospital’s activities director DeAnn Woods called LaCompte in hopes of finding a way to let them participate.
Shuttling them over would take a significant amount of time because each van could only hold four residents at a time.
LaCompte approached the school’s football coach Dan Akker about using the players to help transport them in their wheelchairs instead.
The coach told LaCompte: ‘If we’re going to do it, I want to do it as a team.’
The distance from the care center to the parade route was about a block and a half.
Melanie Morehardt, a second grade teacher in Winner and a mother of one of the players, posted a video of the team wheeling the residents to the parade on Facebook
When Coach Akker first heard the idea, he said: ‘If we’re going to do it, I want to do it as a team’
The hospital’s communications director Jody Engel said: ‘A lot of them wear Winner Warriors clothing on Fridays just because it’s football game day, so it was a really big deal for them’
The residents were thrilled to be escorted by the ‘celebrities’ of the event.
‘You wouldn’t believe the smiles on their faces,’ LaCompte said.
Before the parade, the residents made pennants and pom-poms to cheer for the boys along the route.
Melanie Morehardt is a second grade teacher in Winner and a mother of one of the players. She posted a video of the team wheeling the residents to the parade on Facebook.
‘It’s monumental to them,’ Engel said. ‘Being a small, rural community, the community is so tight knit. Everyone is really involved with supporting the kids and supporting the athletics.
‘To be able to participate in something that is so much a part of the thread of the community makes them feel real again.
‘It’s those normal everyday things they miss the most.’
Bolton added: ‘The community is the back bone of Winner’s football program.
‘Without such tremendous support from our community, the football program would lack that strong support it needs.
‘The community as a whole has always given support no matter winning or losing, on or off of the field.’
Before the parade, the residents made pennants and pom-poms to cheer along the route
The residents were happy to leave the facility for the day and celebrate with the community
A Warriors’ player smiles with a resident before wheeling him out to the parade route
The Winner High School football team lived up to their name, securing a 38 to 13 victory.
The school hopes to make the inclusion of the elderly residents an annual tradition.
Bolton said he was surprised by how much attention their story got in the national news.
‘Many people are calling this amazing rather than just a second nature act of kindness,’ he said. ‘With all of the negativity going around in the media right now it was nice to be able to show that not all things may be bad, there is still good in the world.’
The entire football squad stands behind the residents on the parade route
A resident at the care center beams at the camera as she waits to be wheeled outside
A resident sits with a pennant that reads: ‘Warrior Pride! All day everyday!’
A resident with his assigned player stand by the team as they all get paired up