A Rival Rises to the Occasion
In early August, Jack Phillips, head coach of the Glen Oaks High School Panthers in Baton Rouge, was game planning for a successful football season and his players were already in midseason form. However, he could’ve never prepared for what happened next. Something that would change the course of Glen Oaks High’s football team and the lives of everyone in the Baton Rouge community.
On August 12, 2016, the rain started to fall and wouldn’t stop. Soon, the unrelenting and escalating waters caused the catastrophic Great Flood in Baton Rouge, leaving thousands of residents without homes and displaced students without a school—including the Glen Oaks Panthers.
As the disaster unfolded and water engulfed the city, Atlanta-based UPS employee, Malerie Thornton, watched as her hometown of Baton Rouge became unrecognizable. Worried that her beloved alma mater, McKinley High School, had been affected, Malerie reached out to Principal Herman Brister to see how she could help. Fortunately, he reported that McKinley had emerged relatively undamaged. However, he could not say the same for their longtime rival, the Glen Oaks High Panthers.
In Baton Rouge, community extends well beyond the football field and school colors. So, when she discovered Glen Oaks had been damaged and its students were displaced, it was only natural for Malerie to ask UPS to help in the rebuilding effort.
Rebuilding a Rival
In talking with Coach Phillips and Glen Oaks principal Edward Hunter, it became obvious that repairing the locker room would help lift spirits and facilitate a return to normalcy for the team and the students.
So, Malerie returned to Baton Rouge and rallied a group of volunteers from McKinley High, who were unaware they were going to help rebuild their rival Glen Oaks.
Upon arrival on the Glen Oaks campus, the McKinley group was instantly humbled, honored and enthusiastic to assist their neighboring school. Alongside UPS volunteers, they painted new lockers, outfitted the area with banners emblazoned with the Glen Oaks Panther and installed a brand new television.
Later in the day, Coach Phillips gathered his team to unveil their new locker room. When the team marched in, they were awed by the sea of bright Panther red, team banners, rows of individualized lockers and sterling new flatscreens for future film sessions.
After marveling at their newly refurbished locker room, Coach Phillips led his team onto the football field for one last surprise. There, waiting for them on the 50-yard line, was Malerie and the group of McKinley volunteers who had spent the day rebuilding Glen Oaks. It became apparent to the Glen Oaks squad who was responsible for their restored locker room and their renewed sense of pride.
Naturally, when the two schools share the same field, it’s game time. Together, the group played the first football game at Glen Oaks High since the Great Flood of Baton Rouge. After getting a glimpse of what’s to come next season, the final whistle blew and the two sides broke bread together under the lights.
Through the efforts of Malerie, UPS, McKinley and Glen Oaks, the Baton Rouge community proved that although a disaster can damage their city, it will always remain unbroken.