When members of the Red Lion Area High School football team left New Jersey on Wednesday, there were many tears shed from the Hurricane Sandy victims they had helped, said coach Pat Conrad.
"They felt good, you could just tell it was good for them to help others," Conrad said of his students.
In the days that the district had off following Hurricane Sandy, Conrad said hearing of the devastation in neighboring states got him thinking: What if they could send the football players to help?
After making some phone calls and collecting supplies, 44 players, three managers and a couple coaches were ready to board a Bailey Coach bus for New Jersey by 5:30 a.m. Wednesday. They chose the date because the students had off school for the Thanksgiving holiday, he said.
"I thought it would be good for the kids to learn that there's a lot to be thankful for and there are people that are a lot more disadvantaged than we are," Conrad said the night before the big trip.
Conrad said the Federal Emergency Management Agency put him in touch with members of The Church of Grace and Peace in Toms River, N.J.
Pastor Walter Healy wrote on the church's website that, "First, let me say I am happy to report we have not experienced the loss of life nor has anyone from the church body at Grace and Peace been physically harmed in any serious way."
Being spared of severe damage, Healy wrote, the church was pairing with Samaritan's Purse to bring recovery efforts to neighbors.
Conrad said the team members spent Wednesday morning sorting a parking lot full of items, including diapers, feminine products, clothes and jackets.
In the afternoon, everyone split into groups. Some took the sorted items to distribution centers while the rest went into town to help clean debris from people's yards.
One resident told them of the 40 inches of water that filled the street during the hurricane, and there was still damage from the 12 to 15 inches of water that had gotten into his home, Conrad said.
Some of the team members had to crawl under homes to remove insulation that had been swept underneath.
Conrad said many businesses and homes look normal from the outside, but damage remained inside some. There was also a lot of debris in front yards, but it was easy to see that people were getting back on their feet, he said.
The high school students also received their own donations -- with breakfast being provided for the players by Dunkin' Donuts. The players also took items to be given to hurricane victims, such as 40 cases of water from Apple Ford, shampoo and toiletries from a local beauty salon and numerous items from parents.
Bailey Coach also donated the bus that took the students to and from the site.
"We got a great group of kids and they were more than willing to reach out and volunteer," Conrad said. "I'm proud of them for being eager to help."