Park City athletes assembled over 400 meals for underprivileged families in the area
After a week of finals, the first day of Christmas break is like a holiday of its own to some athletes at Park City High School. But for a select group, it doesn’t signify sleeping in or getting up early to hit the slopes — it’s all about charity.
Led by the local Agnew family and a large contingent of Miner athletes, nearly 200 people descended upon Park City High School Saturday morning for the annual meal project as a part of Operation Hope. Operation Hope is a project that helps underprivileged families with gifts for Christmas according to Rob Harter, executive director of Christian Center of Park City.
According to Will Agnew, 15-year-old sophomore basketball player, this tradition is something special to him and his family.
“This is something really special to me and my family, and to have the community come out and support us and be a part of this means so much,” said Will Agnew, 15, a sophomore basketball player. “It’s the first day of break, and also happens to be the Saturday before Christmas, so I get that some people would want to do something else. … But no, a lot of my teammates, friends and members of the community have made this a priority for them every year now.”
Will’s family originally started assembling meals for underprivileged families in Park City five years ago. Starting out with just their immediate family, some extended family members and friends, a group of 20 or so people went out on Christmas Eve and dropped bags of food off to those in need.
“Originally we did something at Thanksgiving, and loved it so much that we decided to do our own thing for Christmas,” said James Agnew, Will’s father. “I remember there was a huge snowstorm that year, so as a family we just went out and started knocking on doors and asking people if they needed any food.”
After the first year of doing this, the Agnew family partnered with Park City athletic director Jamie Sheetz and Operation Hope at the Christian Center of Park City make it a community affair. The project has gotten so big that the meals assembled at the high school now go out to Coalville, Kamas and Heber.
A small contingent of the Goshute tribe, located in Wyoming, drove to Park City Saturday morning to take back 40 meals, while a small contingent of people from Salt Lake City drove up from the valley for 50 meals.
Fast-forward to the present and what the Agnew family started has now grown into a full-fledge affair at the high school. What takes place the Saturday before Christmas now serves as a different type of holiday, according to James.
This year alone, the community members serving included athletes representing at least eight Miner sports teams. They helped assemble over 400 meals that included turkey, potatoes, pies, peas and other typical holiday fare.
“We are a family of athletes, so athletics and giving back are important to us and we are lucky enough to be able to combine the both of them,” James said. “Having Jamie involved, with him being that link between us and the other athletes is special. Sometimes athletes get bad reputations but we teach the kids since young age to be good citizens and this is just a part of that.”
While the Agnew family originally got this projected started, James was quick to point out that it never would’ve gotten this big, and served this many people in the community, if it wasn’t for the locals pitching in. More than just athletes serving, their families were present on Saturday morning, helping fill out the assembly line.
One local team that was strong in numbers was the Park City boys basketball program, with members from each of its three teams all present and helping. What makes their participation so special was 12 hours prior to arriving at the high school, the Miners varsity squad lost a close-fought battle with Judge Memorial, a highly contentious game in front of a raucous crowd.
But that didn’t stop coach Purcell from making sure his players were there, understanding what this day means in the grand scheme of life.
“Last night was a tough night, a long night for us as coaches and I’m sure the players as well,” Purcell said. “But to wake up and see our guys out here helping the community, it speaks to character of the boys. … Like there was never a doubt we weren’t going to be here this morning. There’s no group of guys, win, lose or draw, that I would rather go to battle with than guys I have right now.”
With Will being a sophomore, James understands that there are only two more years left in which his family will serve as the primary organizers. But that is a thought still far from his mind he understands what the Park City community has given to those in need this Christmas, and something he’ll never take for granted.
“It’s just phenomenal and it hits you so hard emotionally with all these people coming out and helping,” James said. “In general people are looking for service opportunities and I’m happy we were able to bring them one. Athletes doing good is a good thing and people really get to see that side of them.”
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Dave Hanscom announced last month he was retiring as volunteer race director of the Wasatch Citizens Series after 30 years in the position.