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Penn sprint football organized to provide first responders with meals after fundraising by selling masks. (Photo courtesy of Jerry McConnell)

Despite not being on the field this semester, Penn sprint football has continued to bond through several community service efforts. 

The idea of selling face masks was first introduced by Tom Console, quality control coach, and it evolved into a fundraiser for first responders. The team organized this fundraiser to raise money to buy meals for essential workers at a local hospital this fall.

"We wanted to do something special for somebody who was doing something special for the community during this challenging time, and this was a way for us to do that,” coach Jerry McConnell said. 

The team sold face masks nationwide for $10 a piece. In total, they sold 500 face masks and were able to purchase 500 meals from George Eddie’s Subs. Over the past few months, the Quakers were able to participate in this fundraiser by selling masks in their local communities, and if not they weren't in Philadelphia, those masks were shipped to them. 

“It was a total team effort; everybody sold masks,” McConnell said. “Initially, we were looking for each player to sell 10 masks, ... but at the end of the day the staff [and] the team all jumped in and sold what we needed to sell.”

To make this fundraiser successful, the team split up into four groups whose leaders were the quartet of captains this year, Jack Schaible, Dan Smith, Aaron Johnson, and Josh Trybus. Each team had to sell about 100 masks, and each team had about 10 athletes on them plus one or two coaches.

“They pushed really hard to get it done,” McConnell said. “We spoke weekly about it. I would drive to Penn, meet them, give them their masks to give out, and collect the money from them. The whole project from beginning to end was a great team effort. We also had some alumni jump in and buy some masks. It was a total win for the sprint football family.” 

The captains used a team-wide competition called the Wagner Cup, named after longtime former coach Bill Wagner, to help in this fundraiser. The Wagner Cup was started last spring before the coronavirus pandemic. The Quakers use it to keep track of attendance, progress in at-home workouts, and different events. They hold trivia nights and service projects for team building and assign points to participation in these events. 

“As part of [the Wagner Cup], we put our best effort into selling these masks as fast as possible,” Schaible said.

Moreover, the team's motivation also came from keeping each other accountable, supporting the cause itself, and maintaining a feeling camaraderie.

“Guys are really missing that team aspect and doing projects like this really helps to capture some of that feeling,” Schaible said.

“People took a lot of ownership over it, and the team really wanted to do it,” Smith said. 

The fundraiser ran from the end of September to Oct. 22. In each of the meals, the captains wrote out cards to express their gratitude, and they started to deliver them this past week. On Nov. 3, the Quakers delivered 170 meals, and on Nov. 5, they delivered the second round of meals. Their last delivery will be held on Nov. 10.

“Delivering the meals was really nice to do,” Johnson said. “We didn’t get to see the faces of a lot of people, but when we all came together, it just felt really good to see that the whole team was a part of it.”

Each of these deliveries were strategically organized throughout the day, with the first being in the morning, second in the afternoon, and third in the evening. With the deliveries scheduled like this, the team could deliver meals to each shift in the hospital. This way, they were sure that they delivered meals to as many first responders and essential workers as possible.

“Not only were we benefiting from helping others, but we were able to get other people in on the movement to show their gratitude,” Johnson said.

Even when their meal deliveries end, the Quakers will still be committed to helping the local community. They have already started a toy drive for the holiday season.