CHARLOTTE — The Carolina Panthers of the National Football League make a real effort to be involved in the community, and their current High School Weight Room Makeover project is a great example.
According to the Carolina Panthers website, three North Carolina High School Athletic Association schools will benefit from the Panthers' generosity. The Panthers presented the Olympic High School athletic program with $50,000 worth of weight training equipment as a part of this program earlier this week.
Olympic was the first of four winning schools to receive their delivery of equipment. About 70 high schools in North and South Carolina applied for the chance to receive equipment from the Panthers' weight room, which was recently remodeled.
The other winning schools – Riverside in Durham, South Stanly, and Scott's Branch (Summerton, SC) will have their equipment delivered later this month.
Earlier this week, just a few feet from the football field, the Olympic football team, volleyball team, marching band and cheerleaders gathered as a moving truck pulled up. After the crowd chanted "Open that truck," confetti flew and the back of the truck opened to reveal three Panthers players and two Olympic players along with a piece of the equipment donated to the school.
"It's a great idea that has brought a lot of excitement," said Olympic football coach Barry Shuford, whose Trojans are off to a 6-1 start this season. "Hopefully now we can get up to the standard of the other 4-A teams we compete with in the city. It's also going to mean a lot to our girls' programs and cheerleaders, really everybody.
"We have so many economic needs here, and I know the other three schools that won are in need also."
"The Carolina Panthers are thrilled to offer this tremendous opportunity to schools, especially when the need for resources is at a premium," said Peter Vacho, the Panthers' youth and military programs manager. "It is exciting to know that this equipment will make a significant impact in serving student-athletes in our region."
Panthers linebacker Jason Williams, flanked by teammates Richie Brockel and Byron Bell and Olympic football captains Keemar Noble and Andre Small, stood in the back of the truck and addressed the Olympic supporters on hand.
"This equipment was previously used by myself and my teammates," Williams said. "Now it can be used by all of you."
After the presentation, Williams said he would have loved such a gesture during his high school days in Chicago.
"It touches home with me because of the situation I grew up in," Williams said. "When I was in high school, I wasn't privileged to have a functional weight room. I didn't touch a weight until college, so I would have loved if something like this could have happened when I was younger.
"It was awesome seeing how excited these kids were. You could tell that it meant a lot to them."
Noble, a linebacker on the Olympic team, said, "It's very generous. On behalf of the Trojans, we'd like to say ‘thank you' to the Carolina Panthers," Noble said. "There's a stereotype that once players get to the NFL, they don't care anymore. It's reassuring to see that they do still care."
The Panthers are a corporate partner of the NCHSAA.