Home » ‘It’s about giving back’; Lake Wales football gives gifts to 8 students for Thanksgiving

‘It’s about giving back’; Lake Wales football gives gifts to 8 students for Thanksgiving


LAKE WALES — Lake Wales head football coach Tavaris Johnson has talked about the importance of giving back to your community and being of good service to others, and during his tenure as football coach he has gotten his team involved in doing just that.

“That’s what today is all about,” Johnson told the crowd gathered in the Lake Wales High School cafeteria on Thursday. “It’s about giving back. We’re trying to teach that and instill that now.”

This Thanksgiving season, the Highlanders raised nearly $1,000 and on Thursday gave $120 each to eight students, one picked from each school in Lake Wales, during a presentation.

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“I think that it’s very important to build community,” Johnson said. “What greater time to do it than when the holidays roll in. This time of year, I feel like it’s important that one, our program, our student-athletes understand the importance of being of good service and doing too for others.

“This is what the our charter system was build on, making the world better because you live in it. That was a big part of building Bok Academy. That was always important to me. It helps kids find their value and find their worth and know who they are. It just makes you feel good when you can put a smile on other someone else’s face.”

The team raised the money and Johnson said he called the principals of the other schools and asked them to choose a worthy student.

“I know it’s always hard to choose just one from the student body that they feel is less fortunate or just has been working hard and deserves recognition,” Johnson said. “The important thing is to just spread the love from the Lake Wales High School football team to this community. We’ve had tremendous support — the record-setting attendance at the state game last year — all of those things, we talked bout throughout the week. It matters.”

Johnson said during summer workouts, they’ll take a trip to Atlanta, partnering with a non-profit organization.

“We don’t tell (the players) what we’re going to do,” Johnson said. “We just want to see their reaction, and it’s cool to see some of the students reaction just being out giving and being of good service. It’s life changing.”

On Thursday, Johnson spoke briefly then seven players and a team manager invited the student up to receive the gift. The athletes were Gary Love, Russell Watts, Johnqaue Richardson, Dylan Simmons, Dontavious Purdy and Jeremiah Telot.

“We like to do stuff like this at least one time a year,” Simmons said. “It’s a blessing to help out an unfortunate kid in anyway we can.”

This isn’t the end of their giving this month. The team also spearheaded a food drive at Friday’s playoff game against Leesburg.

“We want to give back,” Johnson said. “We want to give back to this community in a bigger way. I’m proud of the effort from the student-athletes and also the community.”