Sunday Night Lights Written by Lindbergh Parent, Lori Krueger

Sunday Night Lights
Written by Lindbergh Parent, Lori Krueger
Lindbergh Schools is a suburban district in southwest St. Louis County serving 53,000 residents. Our
6000 students, 4.5% are Asian, 5.4% are Black, 1.6% are Hispanic, .4% are Indian, .1% are Pacific
Islander, and 88% are white. 16.6% participate in the free and reduced meal program. Lindbergh met all
standards in Missouri’s Annual Performance report.
SUNDAY NIGHT LIGHTS is a partnership of students, parents, staff and friends working for kids
who suffer cancer and other life-threatening diseases to help them gain strength, hope and support
from the community that surrounds them.
Students have infused a new kind of sport throughout the athletic clubs at Lindbergh -- the sport
of support and compassion that puts the emphasis on action. Working together, the football team,
Lacrosse club, soccer, marching band, cheerleaders, dance team and student council along with at least
30 other school and community organizations throughout the district have united in SUNDAY NIGHT
LIGHTS -- a night of football and fun in which all of the participants are athletes fighting cancer.
These cancer warriors and their families are invited to be the guests of honor and participate in
their own night of football under the stadium lights. After enjoying a carnival and a pre-game meal the
athletes enter the stadium to the cheers of a capacity crowd and are individually introduced onto the
field as football players, cheerleaders, Flyerettes or marching band members.
SUNDAY NIGHT LIGHTS was designed to provide these kids and their families a memorable
evening together while gently reminding them that they are supported in their battle by the community.
Throughout classmate Jake Franzel’s 3-year battle with osteosarcoma, LHS students rallied together,
gaining a new sense of awareness of the community action necessary to bring an eventual end to
cancer. Collections were taken, heads were shaved in solidarity, laps walked around the school track –
and the school community rose in a sense of empathy, caring and hope. Sadly, Jake lost his battle in
January 2012, but his legacy lives on in SUNDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, in the hope that these courageous kids
and their families will be buoyed by the same kind community love and support that lifted Jake and his
Three important populations make SNL successful: 1. The patients 2. The students and district
organizations, 3. The community
1. We team with three local organizations: Rainbows for Kids, Friends of Kids w/ Cancer and Camp
Rainbow, to help us reach the children and families throughout greater St. Louis and surrounding areas that are
affected by cancer. Unfortunately, many of these kids may never get the opportunity to fully participate in what
most high school students simply take for granted -- a Friday night football game experience. This is their chance to
SHINE and be treated as the heroes they truly are. Because of the nature of the disease and its impact on the
entire family, we recognize and invite siblings to participate as well.
2. Planning gets underway months in advance with student leaders from each participating team and
organization. Community organizations such as scout troops and youth groups are also invited. Our students
literally ignite the event with their ideas and enthusiasm, from high tech video marketing ideas and social media
advertising to making glitter posters with each participant’s name to hold up in the stands! The biggest challenge is
finding enough roles for the literally HUNDREDS of volunteers we are blessed with! Our elementary students get
involved by uniting 5 separate schools as one choir and performing together with the high school band to lead the
crowd in the national anthem – a very proud moment for many.
3. Football players and cheerleaders circulate during the fall at district school assemblies, parent meetings
and class meetings to explain SUNDAY NIGHT LIGHTS in an effort to raise awareness about the event and
childhood cancer and invite the students and community to come and FILL THE STANDS for the kids! We realized
from the start that, in replicating an authentic football experience, you need to capture the essence of high school
football -- the colors, the crowd, the smell of the hot dogs, the sound of the band! The Lindbergh community has
answered our call and risen to the occasion for these kids, braving cold temperatures the last 3 years to cheer on
these special players!
Each participant is paired with a high school “buddy” who escorts them at a practice session and then
throughout the event. It’s a magical night for all involved -- to see our students realize that THEY can make a
difference, THEY can bring a smile to these faces, THEY can help make memories...that's empowerment. To watch
as the student council expertly runs two full concession stands, that’s responsibility. To observe as the high school
lacrosse team works with varsity soccer team and girls volleyball to clean up the commons before joining the
crowd at the stadium…THAT’s cooperation! To have the entire marching band in full gear, in parade formation, on
a Sunday evening after a long weekend of competition to make 9 little kids feel like HEROES…that’s amazing! To
watch a football team who lost their chance at State in Friday night’s playoff game come out Sunday and have the
time of their lives coaching these kids in flag football…that’s what it’s all about. Perhaps the most positive effect is
the empathy that the Lindbergh students derive from their participation in Sunday Night Lights. All involved see
first-hand that cancer isn’t a foreign concept to be feared, quite the opposite. As they share laughter, make
memories and develop friendships with these children and their families, they realize that these are “regular kids”
and could easily be their little sisters, brothers, or their best friend. Suddenly, the world is much bigger.
From the 100+ district fifth graders singing the National Anthem (which is also part of the fifth
grade music curriculum, they just happen to get this chance to perform it in front of 2,000 fans) to the ¼
mile of sidewalk art of beauty, support and inspirational messages for EACH of the 45 SUNDAY NIGHT
LIGHTS kids, the Lindbergh students who participated in this event were enriched through curriculum as
well as a lifelong increase in awareness of the prevalence and circumstances surrounding diseases such
as childhood cancer.
Through SUNDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, 250 families members of these children, who had no prior
contact with the Lindbergh community or students, now see our district, our community, our students in
a whole new light of giving and warmth. This event is free to those families, is free to all who come to
cheer them on! We are funded by donations through football team car washes, t-shirt sales, and bucket
donations that are passed at home football games.
With no investment of district funds, SUNDAY NIGHT LIGHTS opens Lindbergh’s doors to the
entire community, welcomes 45 cancer patients and their families and offers more than 600 district
students an opportunity to volunteer and become involved in something greater than themselves. Each
one of the students who have participated in SUNDAY NIGHT LIGHTS knows that THEY CAN MAKE A
DIFFERENCE, a life lesson that can’t be taught in the classroom. (photo of SNL)