By Katie McGregor, Aberdeen High School Intern
“I would rather be with the people of this town than with the finest people in the world.” This tongue-in-cheek quote from the movie Roxanne gives life to the kindness of Grays Harbor. We get so used to the generosity of the people in our area that we think it’s a normal thing. I think “unbelievable” is a better way to describe it.
It’s Foodball time again. During a 10-day period starting Friday, Nov. 7, and continuing through Monday, Nov. 17, Harborites contribute somewhere around one million pounds of food to those who are less fortunate. Like I said, the word “unbelievable” comes to mind. While many people in Grays Harbor, in some way, contribute to this amazing fundraiser, it really comes down to the younger citizens. If it weren’t for the students at Aberdeen and Hoquiam High Schools, Foodball would not exist.
The rivalry between Aberdeen and Hoquiam started in 1906 when the first Thanksgiving Day Football game took place. The Thanksgiving Day Football game was something everyone looked forward to and many residents of both Aberdeen and Hoquaim would attend. As many of you probably remember, along with the yearly game would come traditions such as pep rallies, the burning of Johnny Hoquiam, and blue and gold or crimson and white mum corsages. While they sometimes ended in tears, the Aberdeen/Hoquiam Thanksgiving Day Football games brought the communities together for 67 years. They literally became a legend in Grays Harbor and served as the longest running rivalry in Washington State. When the last game was played in 1973, the tradition and rivalry couldn’t just be forgotten overnight.
Eight years later, in 1981, Hoquiamite Jill Bellis decided to reignite the rivalry between the two high schools for a good cause. Little did she know, by doing this, she was creating a brand new tradition that would continue for more than 30 years. Bellis’ idea for the new event was to merge high school football with donations for a local food bank that was in need. Bellis’ idea was eagerly accepted by the two schools and Foodball was born. The creation of Foodball literally saved the food banks in Grays Harbor and is still a huge event in the area. In a way, it signifies the beginning of a time to give to the less fortunate. According to Andrea Todd, Executive Assistant/HR of Coastal Harvest, the generosity of Grays Harbor citizens usually continues through the Christmas season.
While Foodball still takes place every year, it has changed quite a bit from when it first started. For one, it used to run six days longer with four “quarters” that were marked by weigh-ins. There was even a half time show. Donation wise, food donations used to be much more prominent. Today people tend to donate money, which is actually a very good thing! As stated by Todd, if you donate money during Foodball, food bank distributers such as Coastal Harvest can buy supplies wholesale and provide much more for local food banks. Unknown to most people, Coastal Harvest donates their time, services and even food trucks to Foodball.
The amazing thing about Foodball is that it is unique to Grays Harbor. Nobody else in the region has anything like it. To this day, the money and food that is donated during Foodball is enough to supply four to five food banks in the area. It’s a chance for the young people of Grays Harbor to host an event to help the community. Everyone has a chance to contribute something. “Everybody wins. It doesn’t matter if you only gave a little. You’re still helping somebody,” says Todd. The way Foodball has been set up as a competition is an ingenious incentive for both Aberdeen and Hoquiam High Schools. Everyone is involved. Even the elementary schools have their own “penny-drive” competitions. Who would have thought that rivalry could be put to such good use?
Ever since it’s creation Foodball has grown. In 1987, Aberdeen and Hoquiam collected 291,005 pounds of food combined during Foodball. In 2004, they collected 946,356 pounds of food. Last year, in 2013, the rival schools broke one million pounds. Hoquiam collected 622,912.9 pounds while Aberdeen collected 407,057 pounds. This year both schools will be striving to top the astounding numbers reached in 2013.
For the past 33 years, Foodball has been a huge event that takes place in Grays Harbor every November. Despite the hardships that we may be facing, the people of Grays Harbor never fail to accomplish what may seem impossible. From Relay for Life to Foodball, I, personally, am always astonished by the generosity of our community.
Foodball is something that everyone can participate in, regardless of age or wealth. It doesn’t matter how much you give or which school you give to. In the end it all comes down to the fact that our community is doing something amazing to help those in need. As Anne Frank once said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”