Students from Paradise High School returned back to school this week for the first time since the Camp Fire destroyed its community. Some of the students say it’s the only bit of normalcy they’re feeling during this devastating time.
A pair of Central Coast teams is trying to make the recovery process easier for student-athletes from Paradise.
“At any point in time, something can be taken away from you. Something you love, whether it’s an individual or a materialistic possession, like a home, it’s about giving back and helping people who need it,” said Dan Monroe, San Luis Obispo High School girls basketball coach.
Coaching a team runs deeper than wins and losses. It’s about inspiring young student-athletes the true definition of teamwork – coming together to achieve the same goal. Right now, the goal is helping a team nearly 400 miles away.
“We really wanted the girls in the community to say, ‘hey, there’s another community that’s hurting’, we don’t just sit and watch, we do something,” said Keith Swank, Templeton High School head softball coach.
The deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California History killed more than 80 people and wiped out nearly 14,000 homes, which means no sporting equipment, no uniforms, no shoes.
“Monetary donations or gift cards, things like that, that the athletes can take. Yeah, I need new gloves, or I lost my cleats, or I might have lost everything, and let them actually do that so they can start playing again,” Swank said.
“Coach sent us all a group text about an article about the Paradise High School girls team and just kind of what they went through, how only one person on their team has a house left,” said Lily Svetich, San Luis Obispo High School senior guard. “That kind of just put things into perspective for all of us. Around the holiday season, I know a lot of people want to go home to their families and be together.”
The San Luis Obispo girls basketball team is fundraising for the Paradise High School girls team by donating its proceeds from the Mullahey Chrysler Dodge Jeep Holiday Classic while Templeton recently hosted a softball clinic that raised more than $2,200 dollars.
“I think it’s awesome that we can come together as a community to support such a greater idea,” said Ashley Daugherty, Templeton senior softball pitcher.
A community torn apart is starting to come together with the help of high school sports.
“We felt that because we’re the girl’s basketball program and they’re the girl’s basketball program, that we would try to do what we could to help 15 girls get back on their feet,” Monroe said.
“I think what inspired me the most was that they’re still going to try to play. They’re going to have a season. They’re going to play games and have a season and to have that kind of courage to be able to continue to come out here to practice every day and compete with no place to live barely any shoes on their feet, and so when I read that, that inspired me to try to do something.”