SARATOGA SPRINGS — For several hours Tuesday afternoon, collecting and giving took the place of fall season-starting plans and online exercise drills for the athletic staff at Saratoga Springs High School.
Close to 50 Blue Streak coaches spent three hours collecting kid-friendly food items from the community and stuffing them in a bus as part of the inaugural Toga Athletics SNACPack Food Drive.
“The bus is packed to the top,” Saratoga boys’ basketball coach Matt Usher said about two hours into the event staged in front of the high school. “We’ll probably have to make two runs.”
That was like music to the ears of Saratoga athletic director Nick McPartland, who, like other Blue Streaks administrators and the school board, backed what is hoped to be the first of many more food drives.
“When we were first getting this together, we didn’t know if we would get five cars or 500 cars,” McPartland said. “We’re very happy with the turnout. The bus is jammed.”
The first-year athletic director knew for sure he’d have plenty of blue-clad adults available to meet cars as they pulled up and accepted donations like granola and protein bars, juice boxes, fruit cups, cereal, macaroni and cheese and pop-top soups.
“I have to give credit to the coaches. They were so quick to give their time. I put up a sign-up sheet and it was full in no time,” McPartland said. “We asked them what hours they wanted to work, and most of them said we’ll be here for the full three hours.”
“We’ve got lacrosse, baseball, wrestling, football,” Usher said. “All of the programs are here.”
The coaches and other members of the collection force wore face masks and gloves and followed social distance protocols as they went about their business of helping those in need. Out of safety precaution due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Saratoga students were not asked to participate in the collection portion of the event.
“It’s year one. After today, we’ll reflect and figure out how we can do it better,” McPartland said. “We would like to get more kids involved.”
McPartland did say lot of high school-age kids helped make Tuesday’s event a success.
“The kids rallied their parents,” McPartland said. “The kids got the word out there. Kids were heavily involved.”
The food items collected Tuesday will go toward the Saratoga Nutrition Assistance for Children Pack program. St. Clement’s church in Saratoga serves as a holding and distribution center for the program.
“This is a good thing,” Saratoga field hockey coach Jo-Anne Hostig said. “It’s amazing how many people need our help.”
“A lot of kids are going to benefit,” McPartland said.
In a way, the Saratoga coaches benefited, too.
“It’s great for the coaches to see each other again,” Usher said. “We’ve seen each other on Zoom meetings, but it’s nice to catch up.”
Schalmont’s coaching staff will be holding a food drive Wednesday from noon to 3 p.m. similar to the one conducted at Saratoga. The Schalmont staff is asking for non-perishable and kid-friendly food items, and they will pick them up curbside of the high school by the cafeteria while following social distance protocols.
“Queensbury did something similar,” Usher said. “A couple of our coaches got together and had this idea. Nick McPartland ran it by the superintendent and the school board, and here we are. We had people here even before noon looking to donate.”
“With everyone from the superintendent, to security to the head of grounds, it was an instant yes,” McPartland said. “It was a no-brainer.”