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Madras and Culver high schools turn on their stadium lights; the idea goes statewide.

TOM BROWN/FOR THE PIONEER - The Madras High School football stadium lights were turned on Tuesday, April 7, in honor of the Class of 2020 and the impact the coronavirus has had on that class. MHS athletic director Evan Brown learned about a Be the Light program that was going on in Colorado. In a small virtual meeting with Central Oregon athletic directors, Brown suggested that something similar could take place in Oregon. A few emails later and, before the week was out, 78 other schools in the state were participating.This past week, high school stadiums across Oregon were suddenly illuminated, in honor of athletes missing their springs seasons and high school students in general who are being robbed of the end of their school years, especially the seniors.

On Tuesday night — at 20:20 military time (8:20 p.m.) — the lights at Madras High School's Buffalo Stadium went on. The following evening, the lights at Culver High School's stadium were illuminated.

The Be the Light program spread like fire through Oregon last week, and its root came from a small virtual meeting among Central Oregon athletic directors and an idea shared by MHS athletic director Evan Brown. He mentioned he'd read about a similar program in Colorado, a way to honor the students and let them know the school and community is thinking about them during this time of pandemic and staying in homes.

Brown said that at the April 7 Central Oregon AD meeting, he raised the idea and shared what he had read from Colorado. The idea quickly drew the others' support. Brown then sent an email to all the Central Oregon ADs, then to all 4A athletic directors. Then Dave Hood, executive director of the Oregon Athletic Directors Association, sent the email out to all athletic directors in the entire state late that afternoon.

"By the end of the day, we had nine schools commit to participating," said Brown. "On Wednesday morning, I sent out the email with pictures of Madras' lights on to all ADs in the state. By the end of the day, we had 50 schools committing to participate, and others sent their pictures along the same email thread." 

As of Thursday, 78 schools, representing all classifications and all corners of the state, committed to participate.  

"Pretty incredible for simply sharing what I had read, presented an idea, and sent an email," said Brown. "It shows how much the schools are hurting for their kids and searching for ways to honor them in their communities."

Brown noted that he and all of the athletic directors, essentially everyone connected with the schools and students, are extremely disheartened by what the students are having to endure this spring.

TOM BROWN/FOR THE PIONEER - Culver High School participated in the Be the Light program, and this photograph was taken on Friday evening, April 10. 2020.Culver High School had lights on Wednesday and Friday last week.

"It was strange looking down on an empty stadium," said Bulldog football coach and athletic director Shea Little. "I am so sorry for our spring sports athletes and all students. Hopefully, this next fall the field will be full of athletes and fans at our first Friday Night Lights."

"The idea of canceling an entire sports season, who even knew that was even a possibility?" Brown said. Last week, following Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's decision that canceled school for the remainder of the year, the Oregon State Athletic Association, of course, followed suit by canceling sports for the rest of the year.

"I really feel for the kids," Evan Brown said. "Research has shown that the top two reasons kids are involved in athletics are: to have fun in sports, and two, to be with friends.  

"And now neither of those things are possible. The seniors I really feel for. They did not even get a chance to participate in spring sport competitions or to say goodbye to their friends, teammates, coaches, teachers, or, for most, their athletic career."  

Brown added that when people see the stadium lights on, they will "know it is signifying a ray of hope and support of our students, our athletes, and especially our seniors." 

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