The age-old rivalry between Franklin High School and Smoky Mountain High School has reached beyond the gridiron. Now, the two friendly rivals will be competing for a more charitable cause this holiday season.
The two schools intend to see who can collect more toothpaste and toothbrushes for Operation Christmas Child (OCC) — an arm of Samaritan’s Purse that sends shoe boxes filled with toys, school supplies, personal hygiene items and other supplies to needy children in the U.S., along with 100 other countries.
Although the donation drive is in essence a competition, Operation Christmas Child volunteer June Trull said that the event is all in good fun.
“There has always been a rivalry between the two schools, sometimes referred to as the ‘Battle of Cowee Mountain,’ so we hope to promote some good will along with getting some much needed items for shoeboxes,” said Trull. “We as Americans cannot imagine how some of these children have to live, most of the time without the simple things as having their own toothbrush or washcloth, or even their own cup to drink from.”
Trull said that 2011 marks the first year that both schools joined the WNC team area of the organization to compete, but the goal is simple — to collect as many as possible.
“It is always our goal to raise awareness of the ministry of OCC and the good that it does through the simple gifts of a shoebox,” Trull continued. “We would like to get hundreds of toothbrushes and packages of toothpaste, maybe even thousands if both communities get involved.”
Fellow OCC volunteer Jennifer Turner-Lynn, FHS cheerleading coach, says the collective effort would demonstrate unity between the two counties. “It is a good way to unify the community for a common cause,” she said. “A lot of churches and other organizations have been involved in this for a long time. FHS is a natural fit for that common goal.”
For the rest of the month, the two schools will be hard at work collecting the donations, with recognition given to the school that collects the most at the FHS versus SMH game on Sept. 30.
But the buck doesn’t stop there. All other schools or local organizations may raise donations and bring them to their respective community high schools. The winning school will receive a trophy at the Franklin-Pisgah game on Sept. 23, while the highest-collecting community sponsor (local businesses, non-profits and/or churches) will be named at the same game.
The deadline for donations is Sept. 21.
“This is definitely something that everyone can be involved in,” said Trull. “We'd like to let people know — the entire Franklin and Sylva communities — that all they need to do is buy toothbrushes and toothpaste and bring them to your local high school. Each school should have donation boxes set up and ready to receive items.”
Anyone interested in getting more involved is encouraged to visit the Samaritan’s Purse website at www.samaritanspurse.org for more information, including how to pack a shoebox and what items are suggested to include in shoeboxes.