The idea started as a noble, yet simple one: find a way to give back to wounded military veterans in appreciation for their service to our country.
As Tim James began to rally the troops, so to speak, his idea was embraced by several schools in the north Georgia and south Tennessee area. Inspired by the Wounded Warrior Project
, James, the head football coach at Heritage (Ringgold)
, hopes to make his Halftime for Heroes a national effort.
"I saw a t-shirt with the Wounded Warrior Project logo on it," James told MaxPreps during a Veterans Day conversation on Friday. "I went home and found some information on it, and the more I found out about it, the more I wanted to do something. It was a good idea that I felt inspired to support."
The Wounded Warrior Project is a nationwide program that oversees a variety of transitional opportunities for wounded veterans to assimilate back into civilian life. In support of the cause, James founded the fundraising effort.
Participating schools collected money before their games at the gate and then went through the stands of both teams at halftime. Some schools also used their ROTC programs to help foster the military connection.
Among the schools that participated were Georgia's Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe
, and Tennessee schools Red Bank
and East Hamilton
. Overall, the program raised $5,000 to this point, although James said he has heard more donations could be forthcoming from schools he didn't know where taking part. He will make a presentation to the WWP next month once all the money is collected.
"I'm proud of our community and the way they rallied," said James, whose dad also was a high school football coach.
James, a U.S. Army veteran who served from 1983-86 and was stationed at Fort Polk, La., also did more than collect money for the program.
When Heritage opened its season Aug. 26 against North Murray
, members of the U.S. Army Silver Wings, from Fort Benning, Ga., parachuted onto the field to deliver the game ball. In addition, 16 members of the Warrior Transition Battalion served as honorary team captains for the opener.
His goal was to put a face to the military personnel who serve, for his team.
"I think it was a good thing for our kids," James said. "I thought it could be a life lesson for them. We ask them for a commitment to the team with workouts and weightlifting and all that, but the sacrifice these men and women make for us doesn't compare."
One facet of the Wounded Warrior Project that inspired James is the WWP Packs
program. The collected money will be donated to buy as many packs as possible. The program, with assistance from Under Armour, provides Under Armour gear to wounded veterans.
Each pack includes a jacket, t-shirt, shorts, two pairs of underwear, four pairs of socks, and other assorted comfort items. The general public also is able to purchase a pack online for a wounded veteran for $99.
Heritage finished 7-3 this season, just missing the playoffs, but James considered the season a success for a variety of reasons, including Halftime for Heroes. He expressed appreciation to all involved for helping organize and support it.
"It's going to be an annual project for us. It's something we hope to grow," James said. "I'd like to challenge coaches not only in our area, but all over the country. It's a very painless thing to put together, but one that can pay great dividends for our veterans."Gerry Valerio is a Senior Writer for MaxPreps. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.