Feb 11, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterThe girls basketball team at Wind River High School in Pavillion has spent the past week doing service to the Fremont County community as part of an annual tradition initiated four years ago by coach Justin Walker.
In the past, the team has focused on fundraising for local people and organizations in need. But this year, Walker said his seniors wanted to volunteer their own time and energy to help their neighbors.
"The kids kind of took a different concept," he said. "(They) wanted it to be bigger."
The team also expanded the project this year to involve the entire school: Walker said they challenged the student body to complete 1,500 hours of service throughout the week.
"We wanted to truly impact the community and not just do something small," he said.
On Monday, the girls organized a blanket tying event for their peers. Residents donated fleece, and students wove the fabric into almost 20 blankets that will be placed in area police cars. Walker said the blankets may come in handy in case of a car accident or other emergency.
"So many things can go wrong," he said. "Sometimes just a warm blanket around us can go a long ways."
A cake auction Monday was combined with a dodge ball tournament later in the week to raise money for a WRHS student who was diagnosed with cancer in November. Walker said the boy already has undergone surgery and is recovering, but the family still is struggling to cover medical bills. The basketball team hopes to raise $3,500 to help.
On Tuesday, members of the team cooked dinner at the Help for Health hospice home in Riverton.
"We took 15 girls in and made dinner and dessert for the hospice patients, families and staff," Walker said. "The girls did a great job with that."
The team cooked for parents who participated in Thursday's family night event at Wind River Elementary School too. Also on Thursday, area senior citizens were invited to enjoy soup, rolls and dessert with members of the team at WRHS.
The student council at WRHS got involved through campus cleanup and more blanket tying, Walker continued, and on Wednesday area youth groups did their own service in the community.
"All of the youth groups were out and about doing projects," he said.
The effort continued Friday, when students completed eight service projects throughout the county before the WRHS girls basketball game against Dubois in Pavillion. A silent auction took place during the game to culminate the week of service.
"I've been proud of them," Walker said Thursday. "They had to balance a lot of things --homework, practice, planning this. ... We probably put close to 200 man hours into planning and getting this thing up and ready to run."
The week is worth the effort according to WRHS senior Chelsea Keysaw, who said she appreciated the opportunity to show her peers that she cares about them.
"We've gotten more students and community members involved," she said. "Several students, ones who wouldn't normally (do community service), we got them involved."
The experience also helps the girls come together as a team.
"We learn (how to) respect each other," Keysaw said. "We bond more and we get to do some things together."
She thanked Walker for instigating the project when she was a freshman.
"I think he had a pretty good idea," she said. "We've learned a lot from him. He's kind of guided us all throughout it."
Walker said he has enjoyed watching the girls get excited about the opportunity to serve their community.
"The way they feel knowing they're making a big impact is incredible," he said. "They have the opportunity to see the effect."
In 2011, he said the team raised $10,000 for two local people with cancer. The next year, the girls raised another $10,000 for military families in the area. Last year, fundraising efforts paid for a shed, security cameras and iPads for nurses at Help for Health. Walker said seniors on the team pick the theme for each year.
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