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Adopt a Helmet: heads up for player safety

The Hudson Benchwarmers are on a mission to raise $30,000 for new and safer helmets for everyone on the team. The crew includes from left, Benchwarmers Paul Malecha, Stacy Wix, Susan Richards, Dan DuCharme, Jane Berg, coach Kowles holding the Schutt Vengeance helmet, Joel Marvin, Julie Marvin, Ron Daulton and Lucia Bell. Committee members not pictured are Marty Richards, Lesa Koski, John Koski and Barb Geissler. (Submitted photo)

The idea started with the grandfather of a Hudson High School football player who asked if he couldn’t provide the money to buy his grandson the best and safest football helmet out there.

It was a great idea but when it comes to coach Adam Kowles’ Raiders, it is all about the team. That meant that if one player had that helmet, they all should.

That’s where the Hudson Benchwarmers come in. The group has been providing financial, organizational, educational and moral support for the HHS football program for close to 25 years. A large percentage of the “Gold Cards” the organization sells every year goes toward the purchase of helmets and uniforms. But “Helmet Blitz 2014” is the biggest single initiative the group has undertaken and they need the community's help to pull it off.

Lucia Bell is the president of the Benchwarmers. She and the rest of the Benchwarmers are big fans of Kowles’ approach to the game and point to the growth of the program over the last several years as evidence.

Along with everything else the coach does to include and support his players, Bell says safety is a top priority for him and the program as a whole.

She says the HHS football program does an extremely good job teaching heads-up play, educating players and coaches on concussions symptoms, and implementing the pre-season IMPACT test. There is also a close relationship with the Hudson Physician's Clinic concussion specialist, Dr. Likeness, and with the trainers.

She cited an example of “concussion education” from a 2013 varsity football game.  A player was tackled and the tackle did not look bad or suspicious. However, other players came off the field and alerted the coaches that this individual did not seem “right.” Immediately, the player was evaluated by the trainer and pulled from the game. Bell said it was another example of how the team looks out for one another.

But if there is an area where things could be better it would in the team’s helmets. “Newer technology in helmet design is an advancement that the coaches and Hudson Benchwarmers would like to add to the HHS football program,” said Bell.

“Helmet Blitz 2014” has a goal of raising $30,000 to purchase 100 Schutt Vengeance helmets before the start of the season. The coaches have evaluated the options and believe this model provides the best fit for players across a range of sizes. The team already has eight Vengeance helmets and the feedback from players has been very positive. 

Bell said the Benchwarmers are looking for any and all support for this “adopt a helmet” initiative. “To get the 100 helmets for the Aug. 5 start, donations need to be made by June 30, hence Helmet Blitz 2014.” 

Currently the HHS football program has 30-40 old helmets, 150 good Schutt DNA helmets and eight of the Schutt Vengeance helmets. By adding 100 Schutt Vengeance helmets to the HHS football program, the program would have the ideal number of helmets that would give each player the best fit possible Bell said. “The ideal number of helmets is defined as the number of players (200) plus 20 percent. A great helmet is not a great helmet if “best fit” is not achieved. Thus we are seeking to add to the number of helmets in the program to provide “best fit” and add the newer technology in the helmet selection.”

Bell said the fundraiser will run from now through the end of June. They hope donations will come from businesses, local foundations and organizations in the community and individuals.

And Bell said there is a special “Play-It-Forward” component to the Helmet Blitz. Every HHS football player will make a commitment to “play-it-forward” with an investment of their time, talents, and mentorship in the Hudson youth football programs and with the Hudson Boosters organization. “This is a true Play-It-Forward movement with the intent to repay the good deed to others.”

For more information about or to support the Helmet Blitz 2014 go to the Hudson Benchwarmers Club website at Donations can be made on the website or by check payable to Hudson Benchwarmers Club Inc. c/o Julie Marvin, Attn: Helmet Blitz, 846 Dorsey Drive, Hudson WI 54016. Marvin can be reached at (651)247-5621. Donors will be recognized publically in a variety of ways.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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