The rivalry between Westerly and Stonington will be raised to a higher level at this year’s Thanksgiving football game.
For the last few weeks, the two schools’ National Honor Societies have been competing in a “Two Teams, One Cause” project to see which school can donate the most food, hygiene products and money to a local nonprofit of each school’s choice.
The results will be announced at halftime, adding to the competitive spirit of the event.
Westerly High’s donations will go to The WARM Shelter on its side of the Pawcatuck River and Stonington’s will go to the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center.
Supporters can help their team’s cause by bringing donations to the game.
“We’re going to have tables right across from each other leading into the football game, so it [won’t be] too late to make a contribution,” Izadora Yarnall, 17, a member of Stonington’s National Honor Society, said at the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center last week.
Ultimately, the school with the most points at the end of the competition wins the contest, “but really, the true goal of this event is to help our community,” said Yarnall.
The idea crystallized during a conversation between Yarnall and Avery Van Lew, 17, Stonington’s fundraising committee head, about potential fundraising ideas.
“We knew we wanted to do something partnering with the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, some sort of food drive,” said Yarnall. “Then we were thinking, what if we did something with Westerly because we have this crazy, insane rivalry that sometimes gets ugly but why not use it for something positive?”
Sam Luzzi, 17, who is president of Westerly High School’s National Honor Society, said Yarnall reached out to Westerly in mid-October.
Luzzi said all of the officers from both schools met at the Junk & Java coffee shop in Westelry and figured out a point system for the items and where the two teams wanted to donate.
Food items, like canned meat and fish, canned vegetables and fruit, peanut butter and jelly were valued at 2 points each. Hygiene products such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, diapers, feminine hygiene products, shampoo and conditioner were worth 5 points each. For monetary donations, every dollar will be worth 1 point.
Janvi Patel, 17, who is the social chairperson for the Westerly society, said the donations trickled in at first but once the word spread, an avalanche of items came in.
“We got a lot larger number than we expected,” Patel Monday at The WARM Shelter.
Luzzi said he thought Stonington might be ahead in the numbers.
“Maybe there’s time for a comeback,” he laughed. “Even though the numbers do matter to some extent, it’s about supporting the community and giving back.”
The rivalry between the schools is historic, almost legendary, but the contest represents a positive way to bring the two communities together, Luzzi said.
“The rivalry and the tension is there between the schools but this is a really good way to bring the schools together in a more beneficial way to help the community,” he said. “There is so much to be thankful for in our lives and I feel like we never really stop to think about it, but you just have to help in any way you can.”
Lucy Sternberg, 17, a Stonington National Honor Society member who is doing her senior project on building connections between the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center and the high school’s National Honor Society, said the idea was to make the competition a new tradition at the Thanksgiving football game going forward.
“The turkey day competition is new this year but for my senior project, we are trying to keep the relationship going with the PNC throughout the year and into the future,” she said. “So we’re hoping ‘Two Teams, One Cause’ project is going to be a tradition for the years to come.”