MICHIGAN CITY – The Michigan City High School football team has been hard at work this summer – not just preparing for their upcoming game schedule, but also caring for the community that supports them.

The varsity players participated in a program that’s been dubbed “Rushing for Yards,” and consists of groups of players cleaning up the lawns of local seniors, veterans, disabled citizens, single parents and others who are unable to do so – free of charge.

“Doing this reminds you that it’s not all about you, and that there’s people in the community that really need help,” said Shelley Miller, a junior on the team. “And it doesn’t hurt you to take a few hours out of your morning to help someone else.”

Lawn mowing, tree trimming, gutter cleaning and other such tasks have kept the players busy nearly every weekend this summer. They set a goal to clean up 50 yards in their inaugural season; and they will hit that goal Saturday, which is also the last day for Rushing for Yards until Summer 2020.

Nate Ware, a senior on the football team, said, “It’s a good feeling. These are our people, this is our town. The community sees that we are being supportive of them, and they support us by coming to our games.”

Rushing for Yards is the brainchild of Ricky and Sabrina Anderson, whose son, Raci’on, is a sophomore on the squad.

“So many people in the community support our boys, they pack the stands for our boys,” Sabrina Anderson said. “We wanted to bring them together to show them that our youth can do something positive. It’s been really great. The kids even asked if we can do it again next year.”

While the boys split the work by sending out a different group of guys each week, Anderson and fellow football mom Jennifer Heath have attended every single cleanup the team has tackled this summer. They transport the players, supply the lawn care equipment, keep the boys fed and hydrated, and otherwise supervise at the cleanup sites.

Heath, whose son, Matthew, is a sophomore on the team, said, “All of the boys have been fantastic about understanding what we’re doing, understanding the purpose behind the program, and really stepping up to the challenge to help the community and give back.”

Anderson and Heath have chronicled the team’s service on the Rushing for Yards Facebook page, where they encourage members of the public to direct them to addresses where they can help. Some have responded with specific names and addresses, others with more vague information – but the work still gets done. Even the Michigan City Code Enforcement department has reached out to them to request the boys help at a specific property.

“We’re making a difference, making a change one yard at a time,” Anderson said. “Like we tell them, check on your neighbors. And they are.”

Senior Robert Jefferson IV said that in addition to the sense of accomplishment he feels after a weekend of yard work, and the pride he’s felt when some of the homeowners have become emotional or expressed their gratitude, he also enjoys the teambuilding aspect of Rushing for Yards.

Miller agreed and said, “It really helps us to build and bond with each other. We all play different positions on the field; but when we’re out here, we’re all together, helping each other and talking through it all.”

“We’re trying to build a culture and a community within our program,” said Head Coach Phil Mason.

He talked about how one’s status as a football player often influences how people perceive them, despite their individual names and qualities. And that’s why Mason places emphasis on the importance of caring for everyone.

“We tell our kids that once they put on our gear, they represent us no matter where they are,” he said. “We want them to really help set the culture for what goes on in the [school] building on a day-to-day basis. We want this to carry over into the hallways, into the classrooms, into the community.”

Rushing for Yards was designed to allow Michigan City High School football players to serve the community while working and bonding together, as well as building character, self-esteem, integrity and teamwork.

Through the program, businesses and individuals can sponsor them on a per-yard or one-time basis. Those tax-deductible donations help the team pay for equipment, gear, food and other needs throughout the football season.

All sponsors will be recognized on a banner at Ames Field, and via verbal recognition during home games.

Checks may be made out to MCHS Football.

For more information, contact Ricky Anderson at 219-243-4529, Sabrina Anderson at 219-210-1051, or Head Coach Phil Mason at pmason@mcas.k12.in.us.

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