Warhorses deliver to warriors next door

Fred McCormick

While residents at the N.C. State Veterans Home are settling in on Friday nights, the Owen football team is delivering hits at Warhorse Stadium.

The Warhorses, wearing maroon and white and, for some, Santa hats, delivered something different at the home recently - supplies that many residents at the home needed. Among them is Albert Dalton, a 92-year-old World War II veteran and the grandfather of Nathan Padgett, who took over as the head coach of the Warhorses earlier this year.

One of Padgett’s goals in accepting the position at Owen was to increase his players’ involvement in the community. His frequent visits to the home helped him formulate the goal.

“I want these guys to understand the importance of doing a service project for our community,” he said. “Those men and women served our country, and some may be without family. That bothers me, knowing that they may be without something as simple as lip balm or stationary items.”

Padgett saw an opportunity for his team to do something meaningful for a valuable group of people.

“It’s important for players to think about others that may be without this holiday season,” he said. “Especially those that have done so much for us.”

The coach contacted the home and received a list of useful items, which included T-shirts and crossword puzzles. He sent a letter home with his players, telling their parents that he wanted his players to help make the holidays a little brighter for the veterans next door.

“The kids have been excited about it,” he said. “It’s been great to see them take initiative and step up to the plate on this.”

Some players like junior Casey Young, a lineman on the team, went above and beyond what was asked, according to Padgett. Young was “excited” to pick up the cases of lip balm donated by the Black Mountain Fire Department, which received it during the wildfire in the spring, Padgett said.

Young said that it felt good to help the veterans. He said the experience strengthened the team’s bond.

“I think it really shows you how important it is to help others,” he said. “Everyone needs help sometimes, and I think this project has shown us all why you should look out for each other whenever you can.”

The project was even more meaningful to other members of the team, including Cyrus Hooper. Rufus Daniels, a friend of Hooper’s family, lives at the home.

“We grew up knowing him, and he is a really good man,” Hooper said. “I’ve been there to visit him a few times, and I know that a lot of people there don’t have a lot of family to come see them. A lot of them really need extra support, especially around Christmas.”

Seeing his team embrace the idea of giving to the veterans made the experience even sweeter for Hooper.

“Coach told us to each just get two little things each to give and it would add up,” he said. “I’ve seen so many guys from the team go out and get way more than two things. That shows you right there how much everyone is getting into it.”

Padgett, a Swannanoa Valley native and former Warhorse player, feels good seeing his team do such a good thing for the community.

“It’s all about giving back,” he said. “I really want my players to understand that.”