The first eruption of applause at Brookfield (Mo.) High School on Wednesday came when the official announcement was made informing the students that the Bell Game had been crowned the top high school football rivalry in the country.
The second round of cheering happened hours later, when students learned where the prize money would go.
Brookfield and rival Marceline won $10,000 to be split evenly when the Bell Game was voted as the top rivalry in a month-long USA TODAY High School Sports competition. But instead of spending its $5,000 share on the athletic department, Brookfield will donate it to Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., the site of last week’s horrific shooting.
“It was originally brought up by our principal, Vicki Enyart, and it was an easy decision,” Brookfield athletic director Mike McBroom said. “So we said, ‘If we win this we’ll make an announcement in front of the kids and get their feeling on it.’ After we won, we held an assembly and Vicki told them, and everyone stood up and applauded.
“So the decision was final.”
Brookfield and Marceline, which have a combined population of 6,500, received 1.76 million votes in the week-long final round alone. Brookfield held a voting lock-in for students, who pulled an overnighter at the school last weekend.
“Nowadays, we just don’t put enough emphasis in other people,” McBroom said. “This contest was never about $5,000 we were going to win. This was about pride. It was small-town USA and pride in showing how much that Bell Game meant to us. The $5,000 was icing on the cake. It was never about the money so giving that money to someone as devastated as they are in Connecticut means a lot more.”
Marceline also chose charity over its own athletic department. Athletic director Kent O’Laughlin said his school will donate its $5,000 to the local food bank.
“I’m sure there are some that would like to see it fenced in on athletic activities here but the community is the one who voted and so it can go back to help the community,” he said.