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Examiner
  • Wildcats' trip to Jamaica opened eyes

  • Life-changing.



    Amazing.



    Thankful.



    These are just a few of the comments that came from Blue Springs High School senior football players who made a summer pilgrimage to Harmon, Jamaica to build homes and concrete foundations for villagers who live a life the Wildcats never imagined.

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  • Life-changing.
    Amazing.
    Thankful.
    These are just a few of the comments that came from Blue Springs High School senior football players who made a summer pilgrimage to Harmon, Jamaica to build homes and concrete foundations for villagers who live a life the Wildcats never imagined.
    Blue Springs assistant football coach Matt Marble, who has made seven charitable trips around the world, has taken Wildcat seniors to various remote locations the past three years, and this past summer 28 players and some of their parents signed up for the toughest journey yet.
    “The boys worked – boy, did they work,” Marble said after Tuesday's practice session as the Wildcats prepare for their Class 6 state semifinal game at 7 p.m. against DeSmet in St. Louis.
    “We've done some hard work at other locations but this was the toughest. And I'm proud to say that the (charity) group representing the villagers, Won-by-One, said that our boys did the most work of any group who had come to Jamaica in the past 20 years.”
    The Wildcats built two 12-foot-by-15-foot concrete homes, four more concrete foundations and prepared some sites for future foundation work.
    “We built hurricane-proof concrete homes with a couple of doors and a couple of windows,” Marble said. “We worked with one family with four children and they were right there working with us.
    “They had been waiting two years for a home, and the smile on their faces – especially the smiles of their children – really made an impact on the guys. One little boy said it would be the first time he would be able to invite friends over to his house.”
    As the Wildcats walked to the practice field Tuesday afternoon, many of the seniors recounted some of the special memories from their trip of a lifetime.
    “It was life changing,” tight end Carson Letchworth said. “I haven't thought about that trip for quite a while, because we're into the playoffs and we're playing so many big football games.
    “I never knew that there were families who lived like that. We went over there and really made an impact on their lives. I'm glad you mentioned that because it puts everything into perspective.”
    Massive offensive lineman Tank Thompson said the trip made a lasting impression.
    “The trip made me so thankful for all we have, and it made me thankful that we could help the people in that village,” Thompson said, his voice soft and hushed. “You see people who struggle with their life on TV or on commercials, but to see it in person is totally different.
    “I will never take anything I have in my life for granted. A trip like that makes you realize just how lucky we are to live in the United States.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Marble returned to Blue Springs with many memorable photos, and one of his favorites featured defensive end Derick Clement with several youngsters from the village.
    “The little kids and their parents were right there working with us,” Clement said. “We really worked hard, and it was just an amazing experience. I feel so lucky to have made the trip. I think we all felt the same way.”
    When they weren't digging foundations, building homes or moving boulder-sized stones, the Wildcats bonded through a strong-man competition where the players competed against the villagers and a special bonding session that moved Marble to tears.
    “We had a strong-man competition and it was great, the guys really got into it,” Marble said. “We had arm wrestling and flipped tires, things like that. ... The guys went into the competition with the right approach and we made sure the villagers had a lot of success.
    “Then, one evening we had a team event where the guys could call up a teammate and tell everyone what he meant to them. I didn't know how it was going to go – it could have lasted a few minutes, or two hours – and it lasted over two hours.
    “It was so powerful. I'll never forget that.”
    And he'll never forget sharing this remarkable experience with his father, Robert, a retired Blue Springs teacher.
    “Having my dad go along on this trip made it so special,” Marble said, “to share this with my players and the most important man in my life made it just an amazing experience.”
     
     
     
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