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Bulldogs team up to help veterans | News

NEW BETHLEHEM — A local high school football team recently teamed up to collect more than 1,500 pounds of food and other items for a homeless veterans center.

“We’re always trying to find things that are community service related,” Redbank Valley High School Bulldogs varsity football coach Blane Gold said this week. But because of the pandemic, he added that the team’s opportunities have been more limited this year.

The head coach said that his offensive coordinator, Jason Kundick, a veteran himself, spotted an online post asking for people to make donations to the Mechling-Shakley Veterans Center in Armstrong County, which provides housing and rehabilitation help for homeless veterans.

“We followed up with them to see what they could use,” Gold said, noting that the facility seeks donations of food, hygiene supplies and other items.

The coach explained that the team uses large cardboard boxes for shipping its football helmets for safety inspections, and the team decided it would set a goal of filling nine of the large boxes with donations.

“We needed more than the nine boxes,” Gold said.

The food drive, which took around two weeks, brought in more than 1,500 pounds of items.

Gold said that while the 45-player team took part in the effort, 10 senior players and the senior class at Redbank really stepped up to make it all happen.

“The senior class really pushed it hard,” he said, noting that about 100 to 115 students overall helped with the collection. “The Class of 2021 did an awesome job bringing in donations.”

The food drive was kicked off by a promotional video featuring team member Gunner Mangiantini and Gold, which went out on Facebook and Twitter to spread word of the collection.

The food drive extended into the local community, and donations were sought from clubs and organizations throughout the region, as far afield as Knox and Oil City.

Monetary donations that came in, Gold said, were used to purchase 50 pounds of ground meat and other fresh meat items from M&S Meats in the New Bethlehem area.

Students also helped to pack and weigh the donated items, and a team of four people recently delivered the goods to the veterans center, which was grateful to see how much was there.

“They were pretty impressed,” Gold said, adding that the team’s past community service efforts have included helping out at the New Bethlehem Peanut Butter Festival, hosting a free youth flag football league and more.

“A big thank you to the community,” Gold said. “We put it out there, and the response was incredible.”

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Travis Burnett

Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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