Of the 60 players who are on the College of the Canyons football roster, 33 are from outside the state of California.
So on Thursday afternoon after practice ended, 33 players weren’t able to go home and spend Thanksgiving Day with their families. Fortunately, they still had a turkey dinner.
Heart of the Canyons Church teamed up with Santa Clarita Grocery for the third year in a row to provide pre-made Thanksgiving dinners.
“Our church decided to raise some money, see if we can help some people who might need help at Thanksgiving and we were able to help several families,” said Jim Ryan, lead network pastor for Heart of the Canyons Church.
“These kids live together and so all they have to do now is heat it up because it’s all pre-cooked and they can heat it up and have Thanksgiving in their apartments together.”
Heart of the Canyons Church provides pregame meals for the Cougars throughout the season with a program called “Gridiron Grub.” Before each home game, players are given a main course donated by the church along with side dishes that are usually provided by Rattler’s BBQ.
The coaching staff won’t allow any cookies or sweets with the meal, which the church is supportive of. Ryan originally got the idea to provide pregame meals after running into some players at a local Jack in the Box on a Saturday before a game.
“I said, ‘What are you doing on a Saturday?’ and they said, ‘We’re having a pregame meal,’” Ryan recalls. “I said, ‘I don’t know if that’s what I would call good nutrition.”
Now, a group of 8-12 volunteers of all ages heads out to the COC campus around noon with dinners every Saturday. Kids from the church tag along and interact with players, too.
Heart of the Canyons Church also holds bi-weekly Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings throughout the year, but Ryan said that helping to feed the team is one of his favorite things to do.
“These are kids who maybe didn’t make the grades in high school, some of these kids could be in colleges but whatever it was, they didn’t quit,” Ryan said. “People fail, but when they get back up, I think its good for us to have a hand there. These are kids that are trying hard and we need to work hard as a culture that we’re reaching out to help people who need to get back up.”