The New York Jets are donating $25,000 to help cover the Wyandanch High School football team’s expenses this year, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's office said Monday, two days after the football team officially began practicing.
Former Jets player Tony Richardson will appear alongside Bellone and Wyandanch school officials at a news conference on the Wyandanch football field Tuesday afternoon to discuss the donation as the school attempts to raise $350,000 to operate all sports.
“This is just another game-changer for us,” Wyandanch High School Principal Paul Sibblies said Monday. “These kids have gone from having a gloomy future for their sports seasons to now going out there every day running around, doing their drills preparing to play games. It’s a beautiful thing, and we are thankful for everyone’s efforts to get us here.”
The district is trying to save the school’s sports teams after all after-school programs were cut from the $69 million contingency budget plan adopted in June. Voters twice rejected proposals that would have raised taxes 40 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
The school board held an emergency conference call on Friday to authorize the start of the fall sports seasons for the football, soccer and volleyball teams after acting Superintendent Gina Talbert said they had raised enough money to begin fall sports.
The football team’s season opener is Sept. 13 at Greenport High School.
Talbert said Friday the district has received $128,118 in private donations. The Suffolk County Police Department has announced it’s giving the school $150,000 to use for their sports teams as part of a state grant intended to help fight gangs. And Bellone told Newsday Friday he is “confident” the county has enough pledges to cover the remaining $72,000.
The Jets’ $25,000 donation brings the total the district needs down to $47,000.
Bellone’s office connected with the Jets through West Islip philanthropist Steve Castleton, who appeared at a news conference alongside Bellone and Suffolk County Police Department officials two weeks ago and said he was donating $10,000.
Castleton also works with the Jets on military aid activities.
Jets coordinator of youth football Elijah Hodges said in a statement, “The donation will help the football program purchase new equipment, as well as recertify and upkeep any existing equipment.”
Sibblies said the football team will be on hand for the news conference involving the Jets and Bellone’s office, although he said, “it’s a surprise to them,” because they didn’t yet know about the NFL team’s involvement in helping to subsidize their season.
“I can’t wait to see their reaction,” Sibblies said, “to know the Jets are involved in this.”