In high school football, summers are the time for players to sweat it out under the sun, in preparation for fall kickoff.
But in Hawthorne High School, a different team took over the field this summer.
Drivers passing by would have seen the lights on all night, as volunteers from the community worked on the field. Without the volunteers, the Hawthorne Hornets may not have had been a home field this season.
“I think it was becoming almost unsafe to play on because there was so much sand and divots on the field,” Hawthorne athletic director Erica Gindle said.
Kyle VanZant, one of the volunteers, said the work needed to improve the field cost $35,000, but the school only had $5,000 to spend.
“I told them we needed to burn the field and start all over,” he said. But he and his team of volunteers made it work.
Gindle said the group was made up mostly of men from the community and Hawthorne alumni. She said they would see posts on Facebook, or find the lights on at the field, and stop to help.
“I think one night we had over 15 guys out there, including the mayor of Hawthorne,” she said.
The project took off after Phil Horn, local owner of Classic Greens Inc. and Hawthorne alumnus, was hired to install the new grass. But heavy rains kept the seeds from taking root, so Horn re-seeded the entire field a second time for free.
“I enjoy helping [out] whenever I can if it’s financially feasible and, of course, Hawthorne, being a little bit dear to my heart, [it] was an easy decision,” Horn said.
The field also needed new irrigation, but with the excess rain pouring all summer, and the added time crunch brought on by the start of school, volunteers had to work overtime to get the field ready for the season opener.
“All of us work full-time jobs, so we’d get off work at seven at night and work until about 1:30 in the morning for three nights,” VanZant said. “Then, we had to get up that morning at 5:30 and go to work.”
Their work didn’t stop after summer ended. Every Wednesday and Thursday night before a home game, volunteers also painted the field; something the principal, Elizabeth Hartwell, said the school has never seen before.
“People see you doing nice things, then they come up here and they want to be involved in it,” VanZant said.
Now, there’s an orange and black hornet in the middle of the field and the word “HORNETS” across the end zone.
VanZant said they didn’t post pictures of the field, so the players had no idea what condition the field would be in when they played this season.
“I think it gives them a sense of pride in their field when they come out here and see how nice it looks,” he said. “It just gives them a little bit more motivation, I believe.”
The field isn’t perfect yet, but VanZant said that, with all of the love and care that has been put into it, the results are starting to show, and the field is another reflection of how the entire community is moving forward.
“We just couldn’t have done it without this entire community,” Gindle said. “Being such a small town it’s amazing what [we] could accomplish with this.”