Saturday morning, team members from both of Great Bend Middle School’s soccer teams, the boys and the girls, gathered at the north end of Stone Lake to spend some quality time performing community service together. The original plan was to travel west on the Arkansas River levy bike path cleaning up trash, but with cold wind and cloudy skies threatening rain, they altered their plan and chose a shorter route. Starting at the parking lot and working their way around the lake to the entrance of the bike path, they would travel east to Fry St. on the path.
Boys Head Coach Jesus Loera and Girls Head Coach Margarita Ayala, along with assistant coaches Mary Lytle and Hugo Gonzalez, gathered their teams together to hand out garbage sacks, and the athletes began their walk. By the time they had gathered trash from around the parking area of the park and along the span of Washington St. along the west side of the lake, many had already filled their bags and were ready to start new bags. A drive along that stretch of road after the fact was noticeably cleaner.
Then, the trek along the levy began. As the students made competition out of picking up trash, their eyes were opened to the power of community service, achieving one of the goals of the project.
“We are lucky to have the soccer program for the middle school because some schools around us and in some of the other counties don’t have it,” said Loera.
By doing community work, he said, we feel like we are giving the community and school district appreciation for such a program.
A few years ago, according to Great Bend Middle School Athletics Director Myron Ellegood, Dave Meter, the high school athletics director, began encouraging teams in the district to make efforts to bond through community service, giving back to all the parents, community members and businesses that throw so much support behind the athletics and activities at the middle and high school levels.
By the time they had reached their final destination, the students were tired and cold, but had enjoyed their time together, and had collected enough trash to fill the bed of a pick-up truck, Gonzalez said.
With so much trash collected, coaches Jesus and Margarita had to think fast and find a disposal site. They contacted the management at the McDonalds on 10th St. in Great Bend. The restaurant was happy to help the students out on the fly, and allowed the garbage to be disposed of in their on-site dumpsters.
Gonzalez, said the teams were surprise just how much trash there was.
“Maybe we need to plan to do this more often,” he said.