Lifestyle & Human Interest

Formerly Homeless Woman Feeds Entire Football Team After Learning Kids Didn't Have Enough to Eat


The purpose of journalism is to inform and equip readers. Every so often, however, a story will not only do those things but also motivate readers to take action.

When an Ohio mom read in The Cincinnati Enquirer about high school football players who continue to take the field despite not having food to eat at home or even a place to call home, she was reminded of a kind act by her childhood coach and knew she needed to help in some way.

Dana Gendreau, 46, reached out to the reporter who wrote the heartbreaking story of local inner-city coaches who recognized how much their players go through off the field and asked to be connected with one of the teams who needed help.

According to ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the reporter soon connected her with the head football coach at Hughes High School, Chris Mobley.

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“He told me the biggest thing they needed was help with food because some of the players don’t eat from the time they leave school to when they go back to school the next morning,” Gendreau said.

Because her 10-year-old son, Alec, also plays football, she said she knew how important proper nutrition is for athletes so she decided to start purchasing fruit and high-protein snacks for the players at Hughes High.

She also reached out to other parents on her son’s youth football team to see if they would want to pitch in.

The response was overwhelming.

Since September, Gendreau and the other football parents have been able to provide nearly $500 of groceries each week for the Hughes football team.

They not only purchased and delivered snacks and meals to the high-schoolers, but they also built “spirit bags” with motivational messages inside.

Soon after Gendreau began organizing the donations, the high school team began winning games — something Mobley credits to Gendreau’s generosity.

The high school team saw its best season in 13 years, finishing 7-3.

“We’d have to tone down practices in the past because kids were feeling nauseous or lightheaded because they hadn’t had enough to eat,” the coach said, describing practices before the donations.

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“Practices now have been full energy,” Mobley said. “I think that is a direct reflection of Dana.”

But Gendreau remains humble and said it’s just her way of paying it forward.

When she was little, she experienced homelessness herself, but one kind act from her coach shifted her focus.

“I remember one of my coaches gave me a Christmas gift of money so I could buy a pair of shoes for the sport,” she said. “That never left me, the kindness she showed me. I knew that no matter what happened in my life I was going to help others.

“It also taught me that, even though my children will never have to go through what I did, and I’m glad they won’t, I wanted to always raise children in this world who are going to lend a hand to anyone who possibly need it.”

Even though football season has ended, Gendreau is already planning ways to keep the partnership going.

Not only is she planning on continuing to support the football team next season, but she is also thinking about organizing a permanent food pantry at Hughes High School.

“It’s an ongoing partnership as far as we’re concerned,” she said. “I feel like I have 30 new sons.”

Gendreau ultimately hopes this story will motivate others to fulfill needs in their own communities.

“It’s amazing the contagion that kindness has when people reach out to ask, ‘How can I help?'” she said. “That’s what I hope people take away — to look in your community, ask who needs help and make a plan and do it.”

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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