'It's a lot bigger than a game' this Friday at LOHS
This week, students, parents and community members will gather under the Friday night lights at Lake Oswego High School to celebrate more than just football. The first annual We Are LO Community Support Event will be held Friday, Sept. 13 at Cobb Field to honor and benefit the Lake Oswego High School Student Services Department and the Walk to Defeat ALS on Sept. 29.
The Community Support Event will start at 5:30 p.m., with the Laker football team taking on Jesuit at 7:30. There will be a DJ, "We Are LO" t-shirts for sale for only $1 and a special presentation at halftime honoring the two causes.
The event came together through the hard work and collaboration of many people inside and outside the district. Charlie Cobb, the founder of Gameday Media, lives in Lake Oswego and has long supported the district in various ways. "He's done quite a bit in terms of working with various departments, not just athletics, throughout the community," said Gameday Media's General Manager Geoff Gillum. "Someone had mentioned there were things going on with the Student Services Department at LOHS, that they had a lot of projects lined up but did not get the funding they needed. We wanted to bring some visibility to what they're doing."
Gillum said they got in touch with Nancy Longman, a student services teacher at LOHS, to find out how they could help. Longman and other student services teachers have worked with Cobb before, when he helped fund the creation of the Laker Spirit Store. The Spirit Store is one of the six worksites on the LOHS campus where students with special needs work alongside neurotypical students to gain social and emotional skills, work experience and a sense of purpose and responsibility. It's important for students with special needs to gain this type of job experience, Longman said, because the employment rate for people with disabilities is only 25-35%.
Another worksite is the school's raised bed garden, which Longman and her students have refurbished over the last year, adding new fencing and a pathway for better accessibility for students with physical disabilities. When Cobb asked Longman what the Student Services Department needed, she had one thing in mind: a greenhouse.
Proceeds from the "We Are LO" t-shirts will be used for various needs in the Student Services Department, but a $4,999 donation from Cobb will be used specifically to build a greenhouse next to the raised bed garden.
"Mr. Cobb understands that we are all one big community, and he wanted to make sure that my students felt a part of that community," said Longman. "I'm looking forward to Friday to see the culmination of all the work we put in."
LOHS head football coach Steve Coury said it made sense to also include the Walk to Defeat ALS into the event, as the team has participated each year to honor former football player and current assistant coach Jeff Young, who has lived with ALS for more than three decades.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, named for the great New York Yankees first baseman who died from it in 1941. No cure for ALS has been discovered despite years of research, and when a person is diagnosed with ALS, they're only given three to five years to live.
But 36 years after his diagnosis, Young still lives in Lake Oswego and is still involved with the football program at LOHS. Every week, he writes inspirational messages for the team, and he's typically on the sidelines or watching from the mezzanine at every game.
"We walk every year for the Walk to Defeat ALS. This year the team will cut the ribbon to start the walk, so we wanted to tie that into the game as well," Coury said. "Jeff is in what I would consider the most difficult circumstances a person can face, but he brings such a positive attitude. He has a great deal of meaning to our kids past and present."
Coury said that Young shows students every week how lucky they are to have their health. "He shows them not to take life for granted," he said. "These are strong lessons that he provides, and they stick."
Another reason to tie the disease into the event was the death of Leila Elliot, a friend of Cobb's and a notable figure in the LOSD who died from ALS in July 2018. Elliot served on several committees and volunteered often in the district. She served as chair of the Lake Oswego School Board and a member of the Board of Directors of the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation.
At halftime of Friday's game, Cobb, Coury, Longman and Young will join LOHS Principal Rollin Dickinson on the field for a special presentation featuring donations from Gameday Media to the respective causes. Gillum said in addition to the $4,999 that will be donated to the Student Services Department at LOHS, $25,000 will be given to the Walk to Defeat ALS.
Coury said this game will be a great opportunity to get the community engaged in the causes. "I'm looking forward to the community coming together and recognizing these two causes," he said. "It's a lot bigger than a game, it's a lot bigger than us. It'll be a real feel-good moment."
Coury also said he enjoys seeing his players involved in giving back, as he often focuses on life lessons with them. "It's an important thing in life — giving back and understanding that we're all one. We should all be treated with respect. We're all a little bit different, and there's people that are suffering," he said. "There are people going through a lot more than you are."
While the first We Are LO Community Support Event will benefit Student Services and the Walk to Defeat ALS, Coury and Gillum both said they hope the event carries on year after year to highlight different causes in the district. "With the community support that the football team gets, it's a great venue to raise money and bring the community together around these causes," Coury said. "There's a purpose there other than just a Friday night football game."
"We Are LO" shirts are available at the Laker Spirit Store at LOHS and at the game on Friday.
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