DARRINGTON — It’s not every day a group of high school students gets to teach the reigning Super Bowl champions a thing or two.
But that was exactly what happened Monday afternoon in Darrington. Members of the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders visited the city, which was recently affected by a deadly mudslide, to show their support. While there, they toured a portable classroom at Darrington High School that has transformed into a food-sorting center where Loggers’ students work 10-14 hours a day preparing boxes of food for rescue workers and victims.
The students walked the players through the process and assisted as Seattle wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, Super Bowl XLVIII Most Valuable Player Malcolm Smith and several other Seahawks players packed a box themselves.
“I thought that was fun,” said Darrington junior Tayler Hoftell. “We’re teaching them, and they’re pro football players. That was pretty cool. We’re showing them how we do it. Words don’t describe how impactful that was. You have Super Bowl champs and they’re right here in our backyard playing with us and doing activities. It’s just something we’ll hold forever.”
Several current and former Seahawks players visited including Smith, linebacker KJ Wright and defensive back DeShawn Shead. The Sounders had Kevin Parsemain, Kenny Cooper, Josh Ford, Gonzalo Pineda, Aaron Kovar and Mike Azira attend the event.
The players visited Darrington to provide encouragement and an afternoon distraction for the town. They signed autographs, took pictures, played games, packed boxes and helped serve food to a group of 300 to 400 residents. Their presence provided a huge lift for those that have been working almost around the clock since the Oso mudslide on March 22.
That includes the students that have been sorting and packing food from the time they get out of school until they are ordered to go home at night and rest.
“I thought in here it was really special because this is what we’ve been doing for over a week, and we’ve been doing it by ourselves,” Hoftell said. “And then having them come in and see what we’re doing and help us out, it had a huge impact on us.”
It was an exciting event for Darrington, which was decked out in blue and green jerseys and T-shirts for the occasion.
“It was good for the town to come out of the rain last week to a beautiful day with the Seahawks,” said Oliver Rankin, who has been spending most of his time sorting food the past week. “It was incredible. It was really great that they came to see the town. It helps you remember that all of Washington is out there trying to help us all.”
Added Darington High School football coach Doug Lenker: “We’re all Seahawks fans.”
For the players it was a chance to give back and help a community that has been trying to recover from the mudslide. Smith said the players were there to “just hang out” and provide a happy distraction for the city.
“This is a tragic situation,” Smith said. “There were lives lost. That’s not easy to deal with for anyone. I’m not necessarily built to deal with people going through tragedies but I feel like if we can help put a couple smiles on some kids’ faces then we definitely will.”
Word began to spread last Friday that the Seahawks might be coming to town. At first, the students — who are on spring break this week — were skeptical. But when banners began popping up on the walls in the Darrington Community Center, a buzz started around the city.
“At first, I heard it a couple of days ago and I was like, ‘No. That’s a rumor. No way,’” said freshman Ben Rankin. “And then a lot more people started talking about it and I was getting excited. I finally saw the posters and then I got really excited.”
Darrington athletic director Cory Ross, an avid Seahawks fan, said it was great for the community to take some time off and have fun. There were activities including a football toss, 40-yard dash and a soccer game with near perfect weather.
“You can’t ask for anything like this,” Ross said. “How do you justify them coming to see you? It’s amazing. Right now for our community, we need a distraction. Everybody’s been working so hard on the recovery and they’re not taking a minute for themselves at all. It’s amazing to see all the smiles on all those faces. It was nice to see that happiness, the normalness back.
“This is something that every kid is going to remember. That’s what’s needed right now.”
Ross said the players got to the portable — which is lined with shelves of food — and were taken aback by all the hard work the students had done.
“They walked into that room and went, ‘Woah,’” Ross said. ” … These kids are making a difference every second of every day.”
After touring the facility, a few Seahawks shot some baskets on a court outside the portable. They headed back toward the Community Center and the Darrington students got back to work, eager to make up for the time they spent with the players.
The students can pack one box full of food and other supplies in about 30 seconds — a tad quicker than the Super Bowl champs.
Said Oliver Rankin with a smile: “We’re a bit faster.”