The idea of supporting families who are sacrificing for our armed forces hit home in a unique way for Hoffman Estates girls swimming coach Chris Fetterman.
He married into a family where it was a priority -- his mother-in-law is a retired drill sergeant with 20 years of U.S. Army service on her resume. As a result, Fetterman had a direct appreciation for the challenges that can come along with that kind of commitment.
So he came up with a lineup that would help give back to those in need.
The end result is an event called "Hawks for Vets," which will harness the commitments of the girls swimming and diving team along with the football program led by head coach Tim Heyse in an effort to generate funds and directly benefit families affected by military service.
Further, it's a gesture intended to simply honor what these families are doing.
"When I married into a military family, I had a whole new appreciation for our armed forces and what the effects of serving can have on a family," Fetterman said. "It made me pay more attention to other families that are struggling with those effects.
"My family -- this includes my Hawk family -- has always wanted to find a way to give back to our community. Working for an amazing high school like Hoffman Estates, we have been fortunate to have seen a lot of our students and athletes serve, and being able to honor them and their families, however we can, is really important. Being able to honor my own family as well the hundreds of local families in financial need is an amazing feeling."
Fetterman said he reached out to Heyse and quickly got an enthusiastic response, along with support from the entire football staff. Another key was involving Schaumburg swim coach Tim O'Grady, whose team will be visiting Hoffman Estates for a dual meet at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
"Schaumburg is very exited to share the honor of supporting our military families with Hoffman Estates' swim team," O'Grady said. "This gives us an opportunity to recognize the swimmers who are currently or have been making such large sacrifices to protect our country. We look forward to a fast and fun meet with our cross town rival Hawks."
The Hoffman Estates football team is off to a 3-0 start and will be hosting Vernon Hills at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a nonconference game.
Fetterman said both Hoffman Estates principal Josh Schumacher and athlete director Steve Lacni have been very supportive of the school's participation in the event. At both the swimming meet and the football game, any active-duty solider, veteran or veteran family member will be honored. The Hawks hope to have the stands filled with veterans from the community.
"Hawks for Vets" t-shirts will be sold, and the school will be accepting donations at the door.
Like any coach, Fetterman also hopes the weekend's events can be instructional for all the athletes. And he hopes the sports-watching public finds a way to personally support the effort.
"Any little bit," he says, "will go a long way."