It will be about more than just football at Ron Poe Stadium tonight. McKinney Boyd High School's football team will tackle not only the Allen Eagles, but cancer, by donning purple sashes in honor of a loved one who is battling any type of cancer, or who is deceased.
Players and their loved one, or a representative of their loved one, will be introduced and recognized at 6:30 p.m. prior to kick-off. The purple sashes worn by each player will be emblazoned with the name of the individual they have chosen to honor.
The "Purple Game" is the idea of McKinney Boyd parent Jennifer Santos, whose son John is part of the Bronco football team. Santos happened to see a news clip about a high school football team in a Michigan community that plays an annual "pink game" to raise funds for cancer. Players sport the name of a loved one on the back of their jersey. Santos was inspired.
"Over the last couple of years, I have watched different teams (high school) doing different things to raise money and fight cancer during the month of October. I always wondered why the Boyd Football team didn't participate in a bigger way," Santos said.
Santos said that when she realized that Don Drake, Boyd's campus athletic coordinator and head football coach, was looking for a way to get the football players directly involved in benefiting the community by supporting the fight against cancer, she took action. Discussing an idea to "be more than just a fashion show" with Drake, the two came up with the plan for a Purple Game.
Why a purple game, and not pink? Santos said that Drake and the football booster club decided on the majestic color because it is the universal color for cancer support. She emphasized that they wanted this night to recognize anyone who is battling with, or who has battled, any type of the disease.
"I have a ton of support directly from volunteers, our principal, Mr. Rick McDaniel, as well as the MISD Athletic Director Shawn Pratt, and Mayor Brian Loughmiller. Everyone has a person in their lives who has battled cancer, if only it could be just one….some of the players have a hard time picking just one who they will honor this night," Santos said.
The mission of the Purple Game is to raise the level of awareness about cancer and its devastating effect on families, and to provide an opportunity for McKinney Boyd’s football teams to demonstrate that although being part of a winning football team is important, they can experience first hand the important values of family, kindness, honor, and service.
"This year I hope to get a tradition started, with an open end to what this project could become, and really the possibilities are unlimited. I will always want to keep donations local right here in McKinney," Santos said.
The 100 purple sashes were made with the help of a local merchant and the McKinney Quilters Guild. Laura Kay Houser, owner of Happiness is...Quilting, on the McKinney Square, graciously offered space in her shop for members of the quilters guild and volunteers to come in and put the sashes together.
Fans will also don purple attire and support the team. Santos hopes for a sea of purple instead of pink, to honor all kinds of cancer. Proceeds from the Purple Game Day T-shirts, which will be available at the game, will benefit local families.
Santos said, "It's going to be an amazing night, with much more than a great football game here in McKinney. Keeping 100 percent of the funds locally, separates us from the likes of Relay for Life, etc."
Some of the players have chosen to honor loved ones who have touched their lives right here in MISD. Daylon Markham is honoring Slaughter Elementary School counselor, Tracy Newton, whom he has known since elementary school. Newton, who has 21 years of service with MISD, is currently battling cancer.
Isaiah Warren is honoring McKinney Boyd's former school nurse, Valerie Wright. Wright began her battle with breast cancer last year. She is now a recovery nurse at Baylor Hospital in McKinney and has developed a passion to help others in oncology nursing.
Drake's Bronco football program has also been touched by cancer. They will be honoring former teammate Willie Wilson, who played a freshman. Wilson developed brain cancer during the spring of his freshman year and was no longer able to play. Following surgery, he took the role of manager for the football program and remained in that position during his sophomore, junior and senior years. Some tumors came back in 2011-12, during his senior year and Wilson passed away on Thursday, October 25. Coach Drake will wear a purple sash in honor of Wilson.
Santos said, "Willie was a fighter and represented our (the football) team's MTH - meaner, tougher, harder - philosophy in its truest form. I know he had an incredible ethic, passion and commitment to Bronco Football and he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with Willie's family and friends."