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Friday, November 23, 2007

Heroes in the Arctic Region

I was watching Nightline tonight and this amazing story came on about this team way, WAY up in Alaska. And, here I am bitching that I have to get the gloves, boots, heavy coat out tonight!! The ground stays FROZEN here in this town all year round...can you imagine??? No wonder they have a dropout rate of over 50% at their high school. The kids can't even go outside...it is too cold! Kinda puts things in perspective...Enjoy this video...the heartwarming part of the story is that a woman from Jacksonville, Florida actually DONATED the money to build a football field with astroturf for this high school football team. She sure is a hero.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=tundra


Football's Newest, Northern Fans
An Alaskan High School Embraces Football After Fundraiser Brings Field to Frozen Town
Nov. 21, 2007 —


Life is hard in Barrow, Alaska, deep inside the Arctic Circle where the permanently frozen ground means no trees or plants can grow and roads can't be paved.


It's one of the northernmost communities on the planet, and in this small town you're more likely to see a whale scratching its back along the shoreline than something as ordinary as a house fly. This time of year the sun never sets, and during winter there is no sunlight.


Watch the full report from Neal Karlinsky Thursday on "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. EDT.


"The wind chill gets to 110 below zero. The buses get so cold the tires get square and we can't turn them," Barrow school superintendent Trent Blankenship told ABC's Neal Karlinsky. "We have an aide who stands at the door and makes sure the kids gets on and don't get blown away."

Drug and alcohol abuse rates are off the charts. Most kids have only one parent and the high school dropout rate was a staggering 50 percent until the school began a strange new program last year -- football.


They have never had a football team in Barrow, and the population of mostly Eskimo kids was more familiar with how to spear a whale than how to catch a pigskin.


The Barrow Whalers learned to play with the help of their computer science teacher Mark Voss, who last coached a team 23 years ago in Arkansas.


He wasn't prepared for one of the challenges they would face.


"I was going out to our playing field last year," Voss said. "Someone called just before we got on the bus and said, 'Hey there's a polar bear sighted out there.' We had to be a little more aware and have a plan if we had to evacuate and hop back on the bus."



Finding a Field From a Warmer, Southern State

For their first season they played on gravel and used flour for the yard lines that birds would promptly eat.


But the field wasn't their only problem. The nearest opponent was located at least 500 miles away and there are no roads in and out of town, so every game either home or away involved putting an entire team on an airplane.


Still, the new sport engaged the kids like never before, and attendance and grades shot up.


"They needed something more, and it was outrageous for them to try it but they did," said Cathy Parker, a Florida woman who heard about the boys of Barrow from 4,000 miles away.


She decided to make it her mission to raise more than a half million dollars in less than a year to aid the team's travel budget and give them a better field.


"I'm basically just a woman who saw a story on ESPN about this town Barrow in Alaska that was struggling to reverse their high teen birth rate and high dropout rate and high drug use. And they implemented a football program," Parker said. "My family believes football can do a lot of things to encourage young people. And it was just one of those things that kept burning in my heart and I wanted to do something."



Down to the Wire on Opening Day

Parker raised the funds through her church and small donors, and for the new season a professional turf field was flown in and put together literally next to the Arctic Ocean, just in time for this past weekend's first game and their donor's first visit.


The entire town came out for the emotional game to give thanks and watch the Whalers play on bright blue turf painted in the school colors.


But the Whalers began to fall apart under the pressure.

At one point a commentator said you could almost "feel the air coming out of this stadium."


Then, as they were down by two touchdowns with two minutes to go, the unthinkable happened and the Whalers completed a touchdown, recovered a turnover, and with 42 seconds left on the clock this hard luck team of misfits turned into winners.


"Miracles, they keep happening!" Parker said.


After the big win, instead of dunking the coach in Gatorade, the team sprinted off the field and straight into the Arctic -- a group of kids who never knew beating the odds was an option until they got a chance to actually do it.


For more information contact: http://projectalaskaturf.com/

This report originally aired on August 24, 2007


Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures

4 comments:

Joy T. said...

Ok that really is amazing!!!

Tiggerlane said...

Wow...I am in total awe. It's only in the 40's here today, and I refuse to venture outside.

Truly inspiring. I need to have a more meaningful life!

dawn said...

That is a great cause, and a good thing to have started up there. We have troubles in our northern areas with drugs and alcohol too.

Sirdar said...

Wow...what a great story.