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Article updated: 12/26/2012 5:56 AM

Barrington High School donation helps Chicago football program grow

Barrington High School donation helps Chicago football program grow

By Jessica Cilella

From the locker rooms to the field, there's a stark difference in the football facilities at Barrington High School and Chicago's Kelvyn Park High School.

But the practice jerseys the players at both schools wear are surprisingly similar, thanks to a donation of about $5,000 worth of gear and equipment from the suburban school earlier this year.

Kelvyn Park head football coach Kurt Cooney said his players don't mind donning shirts that say "Barrington High School" while they practice. In fact, they wear them with pride.

"(Barrington High School's) practice jerseys ... were better than our game jerseys," he said. Before the donation his players were wearing their game jerseys to practice.

With a recent surge in the number of students participating in the Kelvyn Park football program -- from 19 two years ago when Cooney became head coach, to 52 this past season -- Cooney was desperate for more gear.

Funding wasn't available through the Chicago Public Schools, so he reached out via email to about 50 friends and acquaintances involved with high school football in the area. A quick response came from Joe Sanchez, a fellow Wheeling High School alum and current head coach of the Barrington football team.

"I knew I wanted to help if I could," said Sanchez, whose program has more than 200 players. "It meant a lot because we talk a lot to our kids about trying to give back to the community and give back to those in need."

Sanchez got approval from the Barrington administration to donate more than 100 practice pants and girdles, 70-80 jerseys and dozens of pads, along with a few pairs of cleats.

Cooney said the Kelvyn Park community, on the Northwest Side of Chicago, also raised enough money to buy helmets and shoulder pads, as used ones can't be donated due to liability issues.

Craig Anderson, assistant executive director and football administrator for the Illinois High School Association, said high schools often reuse equipment through their own programs, letting the varsity level use it for two to three years before passing it along to sophomores and freshmen.

There are cases of gear getting thrown out if it is no longer of use to the program, he said. And sometimes schools donate used items to local feeder grade schools.

He thinks Barrington's donation is a great idea that can be expanded to other sports.

"It's nice to see member schools helping other member schools," he said, adding that after Hurricane Katrina some Illinois teams donated athletic equipment to schools in New Orleans.

Trish Betthauser, athletic director at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, said every other year her school is able to give items away to high schools and grade schools in the suburbs and the city.

"I'd say it's fairly common," she said.

"People just don't like to see things go to waste."

Cooney said thanks to the donation, his players were more enthusiastic about the football season, attending more practices and putting more effort into trying to do well.

He said they were all very grateful for the donations, and some students were even able to come with him to Barrington to pick the items up, which gave them a glimpse at a successful program.

"They just thought it was real cool, and I did, too," he said. "It really helped us out."

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