Weatherford High School football players and cheerleaders recently teamed up with St. Stephen Catholic Church and Circle Y Yoga Ranch to provide an interactive afternoon with local adults battling dementia.
Head Football Coach Billy Mathis, along with a number of Roo players and Lady Roo cheerleaders were on hand at St. Stephen’s Thursday afternoon for Connect Camp for Adults with Dementia, which follows the mission statement, “To offer care-partners respite for personal time by providing a safe, uplifting environment for those with a failing sense of themselves and their surroundings.”
Mathis said Connect Camp’s founder, Carol Holmes reached out about potentially setting up a meet and greet of sorts with the football team, an opportunity to give back Weatherford’s head football coach jumped at.
“Carol Holmes who runs this got in contact with Brenda Coleman with our athletic department,” Mathis said.
“I called Carol, told her who I was, and she asked if there was something we could do to interact with the adults that are a part of this program. I said absolutely, we’d love to. So I got in touch with Coach [Emma] Cox our cheerleading sponsor, and she got some girls together, I got some of the football players together, came up here and made it happen.”
Weatherford’s cheerleaders led Connect Camp adults through several routines, while Mathis and the football players worked with those in attendance on a number of “drills”, including throwing passes, running through a speed ladder, stiff arming defenders, kicking field goals and even working on touchdown celebrations.
Albertson’s provided mums for several of Connect Camp’s adults, while Care Patrol supplied hot dogs for everyone in attendance.
The experience proved an incredibly fulfilling one, Mathis said.
“The best part was just spending time with the adults,” Mathis said.
“Having dementia is a tough deal, so them being engaged, doing activities with the football players and cheerleaders, it’s something special to me. I know it’s special to them.
“I like when our football players are able to go out and give back to the community and be a part of something like this.
“I’m excited we got to do it. It was a fun and very rewarding experience.”
Weatherford’s players were equally enthusiastic of the chance to give back.
“Being on the football team, I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet members of the community and work with people who don’t have it as good as they used to when they were younger,” senior wide receiver Rey Huang said.
Junior safety Cisco Caston echoed his teammate’s thoughts.
“You might not know what is going in their lives, so it was fun coming out and supporting them,” Caston said.
“A lot of people don’t get to do this.”
Holmes for her part said the impact Weatherford’s football players and cheerleaders had Thursday was undeniable.
“The enthusiasm, smiles, and especially the connection between camp members, the football players and cheerleaders was truly priceless,” Holmes said.
“The support from the community is heartwarming, and nothing short of a Godsend.”
According to a 2019 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report by the American Alzheimer’s Association, one in 10 people age 65 and older in the U.S. (roughly 5.8 million) has Alzheimer’s dementia.