30 Iowa Conference titles
PELLA—Many patients at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines considered Central College’s football players winners before this year’s preseason practices had even started.
Five Central players distributed more than $1,300 worth of toys to the patients Aug. 8. The funds were raised as part of a team project that included collecting pledges for a lift-a-thon staged a part of the players’ offseason strength and conditioning workouts.
The project is player-initiated. Greg Altmaier, an all-America linebacker for the Dutch in 2007, came up with the idea and first led the project in 2006.
“It’s a great activity and our players do a good job taking ownership of it,” coach Jeff McMartin said. “It says a lot about our players and their hearts for helping out, and I think they get more out of it than the patients.”
The players took the money they raised to the store to purchase gifts, picking out more than 80 toys. The players then went room to room at the hospital and let each patient choose a present. The visits had a profound impact on the players.
“We were able to see what it’s like to be in their shoes a little bit,” said senior offensive lineman Colton Smith (Kearney, Mo., Kearney HS). “It made a lot of us realize we shouldn’t take anything for granted.”
“Just to see the smile it brought to their faces was overwhelming,” said senior wide receiver Ben Lechtenberg (Manchester, West Delaware HS). “It was a great experience to be able to brighten their day a little bit.”
"Understanding some of the patients' struggles and seeing how positive they are helped motivate me and remind me to take advantage of every opportunity I have," said senior quarterback Jack Flaherty (Burlington).
Joining Smith, Lechtenberg and Flaherty on the trip were wide receiver Joseph Kotz (senior, Lamoni) and wide receiver Bobby Daigle (senior, Silverthorne, Colo., Summit HS).