Be The Light: Steamboat High School illuminates football field as message of solidarity
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — At 8:30 p.m. on the evening of March 30, the lights at Steamboat Springs High School’s Gardner Field turned on. They burned for 11 minutes, one for each day the Sailors have been out of school.
High School Athletic Director Luke DeWolfe sent out a tweet later that night that read: “Dear Steamboat Springs School District Community, Last night the lights at Gardner Field were turned on as a beacon of solidarity that signifies our commitment to kids, and our community. The lights burned for 11 minutes (one minute for each day we have been out of school). Together we will continue to shine!”
The message isn’t intended just for athletes, or even the student body, but the staff and community as well. The lights symbolize hope and remind people we will all get through this, and until then, we’re all in it together.
Steamboat was one of the first schools in Colorado to follow the trend that originated with Texas schools illuminating football and soccer stadiums for an hour. Adam Bright, assistant commissioner of the Colorado High School Activities Association, used to be a coach and athletic director in Texas. On Twitter, he saw what some schools were doing and thought it was a great message to carry into Colorado.
DeWolfe was one of the first people Bright called. DeWolfe agreed within seconds of hearing the idea but decided to light up the field for 11 minutes rather than a full hour.
“I think it was a way to put our own spin on it and a way to make it ours,” DeWolfe said. “I think Gardner Field being the center of our community in a lot of ways, we didn’t want to turn the lights on for an hour. We figured there would be a lot of people that would gather there. We didn’t want to promote any anti-social distancing ideas.”
Durango, Bennet and Sierra high schools, as well as District 11 schools in Colorado Springs, all joined in the #BeTheLight campaign Monday night.
Bright said he hopes to reach out to a few schools on the eastern side of the state, but other than that, hopes the idea spreads naturally throughout the state and beyond.
“Rather than push it real big, we wanted to do something that was organic and that our schools see and want to participate in,” Bright said. “We had four or five schools participate (Monday) night. … I think it’s a neat idea to let our communities know and our kids know that our schools are thinking about them.”
The #BeTheLight campaign originated at Dumas Independent School District, about 45 miles north of Amarillo, Texas.
High school principal Brett Beesley was driving back from running errands in Amarillo and got to thinking about how much he sympathized with his students, particularly the seniors. He wished there was a way to let them know he and the staff were thinking of them.
“I just happened to be driving by the stadium at the time and was like, ‘Man, we should light this thing up and kind of brand it as a symbol of hope for our kids so they know we’re thinking about them, that we love them and that things are going to get better,’” Beesley said.
He called the head football coach, who obliged almost immediately, lit up the stadium and sent Beesley a photo. Beesley then tweeted out the photo from the high school account, challenging other Texas schools to do the same.
From there, the movement grew quickly.
“It was a heck of an idea,” said Dumas ISD Director of Athletics, Stan Stroebel. “I’m just jealous I didn’t think of it.”
Like many other schools taking part, Dumas’ field is lit from 8 to 9 p.m. every week night, and thankfully, hasn’t seen anyone gathering together to take it in. Instead, Stroebel said he’s seen cars drive by the stadium a little more frequently while the field is aglow.
When Baylor University in Waco lit up its athletic complexes on Sunday, March 29, Beesley didn’t think his little idea could get any bigger.
“I thought it might have a little momentum because as educators, we love kids,” Beesley said. “That’s why we got into this business. … So, I thought it might resonate with some people. Sunday night, when Baylor turned theirs on, that was pretty special to see.”
The hashtag and message has spread to Colorado and will likely keep jumping borders and into stadiums across the country, providing schools and communities with a reminder that sports, along with a sense of normalcy, will eventually return.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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