More than 1,500 high school student-athletes will be in Ellensburg over a two-week period, participating in this year's Central Washington University football camp. Among them are players from Darrington High School.
Darrington is just 15-miles east of the massive Oso mudslide that claimed the lives of more than 40 people on March 22.
"We have some kids who were directly affected, truly directly affected [by the mudslide]," said Cory Ross, Darrington High School's athletic director. "They were able to come here [to CWU] and they were just so excited to be able to play football and be kids."
But that almost didn't happen. Following the slide, Darrington residents focused their fundraising on victim-relief efforts. Raising money for football camp dropped to the bottom of the list.
"Darrington had planned to come to our camp all year long," explained Ian Shoemaker, CWU head football coach. "The slide hit and their fundraising opportunities dissipated. They still wanted to come but they weren't going to have the funds."
To ease the economic burden, and allow those players to attend camp, CWU officials sought, and received, required authorization from the NCAA to allow the university to waive all room-and-board fees and other associated camp costs for the Darrington players.
"We're grateful that the NCAA allowed our university to accommodate them at a time when their community has faced such devastation," said CWU Athletics Director Dennis Francois. "Athletics is pretty miniscule in the grand scheme of things, but we are firm believers that athletics can serve as a rallying point for communities and, in this case, help these kids regain a sense of normalcy in their lives and be part of the healing process."
Media contact: Robert Lowery, CWU Athletics Department, 509-963-1487, email@example.com
Photo: (L. to r.) Cory Ross, Darrington High School's athletic director, and Doug Lenker, head football coach, watching the Loggers scrimmage at CWU football camp
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