a Community Service Partnership
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By Matt Drago

(L-R) Shivam Pandya (Junior), Will McDade (Juior), Ben Pelleriti (Junior), David Lee (Senior), Aaron Roney (Senior), Jefferson Martinez (Junior-holding sign), Davon Hudgins (Senior), Tairiq Clopton (Junior), Camerion Cabrera (Junior), Bishop Asamoah (Senior)

Neighbors of East Windsor caught up with Wendy McDade of the Hightstown High School Football Parents’ Club, and Ethan Jeros, the team’s football coach, to discuss the fundraising efforts of the Hightstown High School Rams football team to benefit Rise, A Community Service Partnership. For the last several years, with the support of the Football Parents’ Club, the team has set up a dunk tank at the Hightstown Hometown Harvest Fair to raise money and collect goods to benefit Rise.

Neighbors: What was behind your decision to choose Rise as your charity of choice?

Wendy: A few years ago, when our son was 13, he and two friends volunteered at the Rise Food Pantry for the summer.  They had a great time and were really able to contribute to a social partnership directly impacting their community.  Rise is very supportive of including young volunteers in their efforts, so when our son joined the high school football team, it seemed like a great time to expand the endeavor.  Coach Jeros was enthusiastically on board from the beginning.  In his first year as head coach, he was looking to build a team of young men as well as football players – and working with Rise presented a winning opportunity for all involved.

Neighbors: How much money was raised during the event?

Wendy: This year, the Dunk-a-Ram dunk tank event raised $845 and collected 45 canned goods.

Neighbors: Do you know how much money has been raised for Rise in total by the football team?

Wendy: To date, the team has raised approximately $2,145 through the Dunk-a-Ram event at the Hightstown Harvest Fair.  This is the third year that the HHS football team has run the dunk tank.  In previous years, the dunk tank raised $700 in 2015 and $600 in 2016.  Many canned goods have been collected as well.  The HHS Rams Football Parents’ Club supports the event each year by covering the cost of the dunk tank and providing organizational and supervisory support.

Neighbors: Do you do other events to raise money for Rise?

Wendy: The Dunk Tank is the team’s sole fundraiser benefiting Rise – but the team is involved in several other Rise programs:

  • Each year at Thanksgiving, Rise distributes over 400 Thanksgiving turkeys, complete with all the trimmings. On the main distribution day, the Rams lend a hand by helping to hand out the heavy frozen turkey and bags of vegetables.
  • The night before the annual Rise Holiday Party, the Rams help to move over 900 gifts from the collection point of the First Methodist Church of Hightstown over the Kreps Middle School, where the party is held. On the day of the party, members of the team help with various party logistics – it is a lot of kids and many presents!
  • From January through the end of the school year in June, the team sends two players each Thursday to the Rise to the TASK Community Dinner at the First Methodist Church. There, the guys set-up for the dinner, help to serve a hot meal to their neighbors in need, and assist in clean-up.

Neighbors: Did the entire football team participate in the event?

Wendy: Over the past three years, virtually every player – representing the Varsity, Junior Varsity and Freshmen Teams – has participated in the Dunk Tank.

Neighbors: Can you briefly describe the benefits for the students of doing charity work like this for Rise?

Wendy: Coach Jeros and the Rams Football Parents’ Club work collectively to provide opportunities for the players to grow together as a team – and individually as thoughtful, community service-minded young men.  By participating in a long-term, sustainable partnership with Rise, the players begin to understand the significance of “giving back” to their local community, which has supported them in their academic athletic and personal lives.  It is our hope that the practice of teamwork and the idea of community service stay with the young men as they move forward in life.

Junior Jefferson Martinez attempting to dunk Junior Will McDade

Freshman Marq Buisson looking refreshed after getting dunked

Freshman Michael Crisco waiting to get dunked


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