By Alex Riley
RED OAK – Terry Drake pulled up to Red Oak High School ready to receive the toys, clothing and gifts collected by the school’s athletes for the Arms of Hope charity. He wasn’t necessarily ready for the outpouring of students, coaches and items that piled up at the back of the truck.
Teams from across the Hawk athletic department worked gathering items for the Arms of Hope charity which goes to help Boles and Medina children’s homes. Surrounded by member athletes clad in maroon, Drake offered up the most sincere thank you he could.
“You are helping over 200 boys and girls that are underprivileged that will not have a Christmas. And for what you guys have done, this will be a huge, huge Christmas for them and that’s what it’s all about,” Drake said. “You just made their Christmas for them.”
Red Oak baseball coach Heath Autrey met Drake, a former NFL and CFL football player, at a celebrity golf tournament some months back. Upon hearing about the group’s outreach to young children and single mothers, Autrey decided it was time for his team to step and help out.
At first, he was unsure how to approach the project. But after speaking with a few other coaches in the area, Autrey had teams from Ennis, Mesquite Poteet, Burleson and Navarro Junior College also doing collecting. He then addressed the coaches at the high school during a staff meeting. Coaches from the soccer, golf, volleyball, football and softball programs quickly jumped on board.
“Once we met with Terry you could kind of see the passion and hear it in his voice,” Autrey said. “He described what they’re going through, what the kids are going through and every year we do something at Red Oak, usually for the local kids in Ellis County, but we wanted to help Terry out and a part of Arms of Hope and see if we can make a difference in those kid’s Christmases.”
Red Oak was stop No. 2 of five on the day for Drake and former Rangers pitcher Mike Munoz. The duo were collecting the toys and gifts, loading them into a Uhaul and transporting them to Medina, just a little south of San Antonio. Those gifts will be given out at a Dec. 11 party with another party scheduled at the Boles home in the Metroplex a few days later.
The group’s outreach is focused on children and single-mother families and hopes to help them avoid homelessness, poverty and neglect. Arms of Hope does not receive any federal funding making the gifts loaded in the truck Wednesday morning all the more important.
“It wasn’t a hard sell at all. Basically I just explained Terry and his goals and his mission and gave them a link to the website. Everybody else took over after that,” Autrey said.
In addressing the students who helped with gifts, Drake also expressed his hope that sometime later this year some of the kids from the Boles home would be able to take a trip down to Red Oak to watch some of the teams play and meet some of the athletes who helped them this holiday season
Autrey and his program are already planning an Arms of Hope game where money from the concession stand will be donated to the organization while kids get to hang out with the players on the field for pregame ceremonies.
Drake is excited to see that day come to fruition as the reality of helping others is an experience that can change lives.
“I want these kids to be able to come out and see who’s in their lives. So you can meet them, they can meet you. Be a mentor. Leave your legacy at Red Oak. You just started,” Drake said. “When you leave here you’ll say, ‘I did something to change a kid’s life’ and that’s what it’s all about.”
Contact Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 469-517-1456.
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PUBLISHED: Waxahachie Daily Light 12-10 and Ellis County Chronicle 12-15