KAMLOOPS — What do you do when you beat up on another team so bad, they’re unable to play the following weekend? That’s a question the Kamloops Bantam Broncos community football team was faced with on the long weekend.
Last weekend, the Broncos played Salmon Arm and were set to host the Vanderhoof Vikings over Thanksgiving. Trouble is, Vanderhoof was also planning to head to the Shuswap to take on Salmon Arm, in an effort to make the trip worth the long drive. Unfortunately, the Shuswap squad was still hurting from their game against the Broncs and cancelled their game against Vanderhoof, so the Vikings decided to stay home. Which left the Broncos all dressed up with nobody to hit.
Instead of giving the players an off day to stay home and play Fortnite, the coaching staff arranged for a little community engagement activity for the team.
“We were pretty much scrambling as coaches to find something for our young people to do,” Broncos coach Dionte Jelks told CFJC Today Sports. “We thought why not have them involved in our community.”
The Broncos donned their jerseys and headed to the Gemstone Care Centre in Brocklehurst, where recreation staff at the facility had a few tasks for the team to help out with.
“We really like to create intergenerational connections with our seniors because they don’t have the opportunity to get out,” Gemstone Recreation Manager Crystal Clark explained.
The Broncos got a quick tour of the care facility, which offers long-term skilled nursing and end-of-life care to seniors, before heading outside to help with some yard work. The team helped clean-up some garden boxes in the courtyard of the home and picked a few bushels of apples off the trees on the property.
“I think it’s important for kids to give back to our community and it teaches them good work ethic and to have a sense of community,” Clark said. “As far as helping us out, it’s a huge help. The amount of work it takes five people or 10 people is way less than it takes the one or two of us that have to do it.”
Kelsey Watson is the lone female athlete on the roster and is one of the hard-hitting linebackers on the Broncos defence. She says despite the game being cancelled, spending time quality time her teammates while helping out at Gemstone was almost as good as cracking some heads on the gridiron.
“These guys are basically like my little brothers, sorry to say,” Watson said with a smile. “They are so supportive and I just love having like a second family. The community has honestly given everybody so much… giving back to the community is almost bringing in, like, the Thanksgiving spirit and how we should give back.”
After taking care of business in the yard, the team joined some residents back inside for a quick game of bingo. For Coach Jelks, having his athletes spend the time giving back not only strengthens their team bond but also helps build character for these athletes later in life.
“We want our young people to take the opportunity to see that there’s life outside video games and technology. You can do good out in our community,” Jelks said. “We’re pretty excited about being here and being amongst the elders in our community, and this going to go a long way. As a youth, I remember my football coach me to an elder home, and I think just paying it forward. Hopefully, we plat that seed in our young people’s head so when they become adults they do the exact same thing with their children or the sports teams they coach.”
Jelks also took the opportunity to call out some other football teams in the community to get involved.
“I would like to issue a challenge to South Kam high school, to Valleyview high school, as well as Westsyde high school to do something positive in our community."
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