Christmas came early for students of Prince Elementary School when 30 Canyon Del Oro High School football players delivered hoodies and sweaters at the 2013 CDO Football Hoodie Drive, held last Friday.

The event initially started five years ago as a shoe drive under Deb Batson of Awakenings Massage, but later evolved into a sweater drive to help keep warm the near-700 students who make up the school, many of which come from low-income families. 

“It makes me cry every year,” said Batson. “It’s all about paying it forward. It’s about the look on the kids’ faces. People ask why I started it. It’s simple. There was a need.”

To the tune of holiday music, students lined up and picked out a sweater or hoodie, and they were also treated to ice cream, candy canes, and Capri Sun. They even got a chance to go head-to-head with the CDO football players in a friendly game.

“It’s nice coming out here and supporting the community,” said senior JJ Metz, who has been a leader on and off the football field during his years at CDO. “These families come out and support our team on the field, so we are returning that support. I grew up in a similar situation to some of these kids, so I know how it is.”

Metz emceed the event as “DJ Reindeer,” wishing all “happy holidays,” and asking kids such things as their favorite football team. Dorados head coach Dustin Peace didn’t mind hearing “CDO” as an answer every now and again.

“This is a great event,” he said. “It’s grown quite a bit from when we first got it going. Our kids love coming out here to help, and these kids are very deserving in receiving these sweaters. It’s really just about being a positive part of the community.”

Close to 700 sweaters were collected this year in the event, which was co-sponsored by Batson, dentists Bryan Foulk and Michael Manela, Andres Rubal of Tierra Antigua Realty, Banana Republic, Paul Volpe of Nova Home loans, and Blue Bell Ice Cream. 

In addition to helping hand out the donated clothing, CDO football players collected sweaters by asking classmates and faculty for donations.

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