ASHE COUNTY — Professional football players, organizers and mascots with the High Country Grizzlies professional football team are banding to encourage reading by first graders in Ashe County schools in the Cub Club Reading Program.
“We thank everybody for the opportunity. We want to make sure children are able to read well and write well,” said High Country Grizzlies General Manager and Director of Football Operations William Thompson. “We’ve been meeting with teachers and principles and doing everything we can to promote reading in the communities.”
The program started on Dec. 16 when mascots and team members visited Blue Ridge Elementary School, Mountain View Elementary and Westwood Elementary School that morning. Mascots and team members interacted with children while explaining how the program works and encouraging them to read.
Students who participate in the reading program will be rewarded different prizes including gift cards from Subway, a T-shirt and tickets to the first football game. The schools with the highest percentage of participation in the reading club will also get a Subway party in February.
“We are trying to promote the schools and reading in children and education,” said High Country Grizzlies sales representative David Ricker. “It’s a great thing the board of education is allowing us to do.”
Margaret Moore, a former teacher and wife of former Appalachian State University coach Jerry Moore, who led the Appalachian State football team in three national Championships in 2005, 2006 and 2007, read children’s books to students during their visits.
“It shows kids how we as adults realize how important it is to read,” said Margaret Moore.
According to Riker, the program started earlier this year in Watauga County and the team has been wanting to expand it to Ashe County.
“The program has taken a snowball affect during the past few months, “said Ricker.
Program coordinator Sandra Peterson has been spearheading the program and working with the school system.
“David contacted me a month or two ago about the possibilities of starting in our schools here in Ashe. We want to do anything we can to foster literacy,” said Peterson. “It sounds like a great program. It gets the children pumped up and gives them goals to set for themselves. It’s our first time doing this and I’m very excited. It’s also the first time the High County Grizzlies will be playing in Boone.”
This the first season the Grizzlies have ever held the reading program in the high country.
Subway, with the help of manager Beverly Greene and district manager, Lissa Medford, has also helped sponsor the reading program and the Grizzlies.
The High Country Grizzlies are a professional football team in Watauga County and representing the high country. They are a indoor football team and a charter member of the National Arena League set to begin play for its inaugural 2017 season.
The Grizzlies will start playing at the Holmes Convocation Center with its first home game on March 25. Games will go through the rest of the spring with the final home game at the end of June or in the beginning of July.
Part of the goal of the High Country Grizzlies is not only to have a fantastic opening season, but also to be a part of the communities of the High Country.
“It’s been very successful but it’s also been a lot of work. We’ve been blessed in the things that have been taking place,” said Riker. “We want to reach out to the community and be an asset to the high country and not a liability and we decided to reach out to the school systems. We talked with the schools, board members, principals and teachers and told them what we wanted to do. In the end, it’s about all of the high country and the wonderful communities here, not just about the team.”
“We have a responsibility to these children to becoming successful men and women and citizen of our county,” said Thompson. “It’s our duty to come out as roll models for them. God has given us a platform to work with. We put god first, the community second, and everything else after that. We feel like it’s our responsibility to promote the team coming to the High Country. Hopefully, we can start volume two next year.”