By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
Even in Texas, sometimes life can be bigger than the game of football.
That proved true for Bishop Dunne Catholic School, which was expected to kick off its 2017 season on Sept. 2 against Port Arthur Memorial High School as part of the Lone Star Classic in Port Arthur. The devastation Hurricane Harvey wreaked on South Texas when it made landfall Aug. 25 forced the game to be cancelled as Port Arthur and many other Gulf Coast communities witnessed historic flooding and storm damage.
Instead of turning their attention to their Sept. 9 matchup against Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy, Bishop Dunne coach Michael Johnson said players, coaches and the entire school community wanted to first focus on helping those most affected by the hurricane.
“Once we saw Hurricane Harvey hit and the devastation, we wanted to make sure we did something for that program,” Johnson said. “Not just for that Port Arthur program, but also for all our brothers and sisters down south.”
Thus began a whirlwind fundraising and donation collection effort that culminated with a pep rally Aug. 31 where the school community sent two truckloads worth of items off to help with local relief efforts. Allie Daus, Bishop Dunne communications director, said students and families were encouraged to bring donations of clothing, blankets, diapers, toiletries, cleaning supplies and pet supplies. In addition, $1,300 in cash donations were collected.
“We put the word out on Tuesday and did a big social media and email push on Wednesday. The response was simply so amazing we had to add a second truck,” Daus said. “As Coach Johnson said, though, ‘It was a good problem to have.’ ”
Daus said the pep rally already had been scheduled as a send-off for the team, but when plans changed, the consensus was to keep it in place.
“We thought why would we cancel a great chance to celebrate school spirit,” she said. “And what better way to do that than around something as important as this.”
Following the pep rally, students and faculty loaded the items into the trucks, where they were transported to evacuee relief shelters in Dallas as well as the SPCA of Texas.
Johnson said the outpouring of support from the Bishop Dunne community did not surprise him.
“We’ve always been a family here,” he said. “We have a caring president in Kate Dailey, who just loves people. Once she knew that weren’t going to play, she wanted Bishop Dunne to step forward. Our football team just took that challenge head on and went to work.”
Dailey said the effort grew out of a response to social media posts by Father Joshua Whitfield of St. Rita Catholic Church.
“We saw Father Joshua’s tweets, and we really wanted to make sure we were a part of that initiative,” Dailey said. “It truly has been astounding to see the community spirit, the service and the concern our students have for all of those who have been displaced by this hurricane. From all of the people who were affected, and down to the abandoned pets as well. It’s been very, very heartwarming and I am so proud of our community.”