SHERIDAN — Sheridan High School junior Xander Coon grew up around Sheridan High School athletics, attending events in his youth.
“I remember when I was a little kid I could not wait to go to a football game or a basketball game,” Coon said.
Attend any high school event and you will find the future generations of Broncs and Lady Broncs in attendance, watching and dreaming of their time to don the Blue and Gold.
“They really look up to those high school athletes,” Stephanie Vela, SHS cheer coach said.
Junior Justin Vela waited for high-fives from players and thought the SHS athletes were the coolest people in the world. Now in the position of influence, Justin Vela, Coon and other SHS athletes answered the call to help spread smiles to the children looking up to them during a time of uncertainty.
Stephanie Vela first saw the idea to post videos of athletes reading a book from the Wheatland cheer coach, who asked for submissions from around the state. She shared the idea with Don Julian, SHS athletic director, who asked her to create and run a Facebook page dedicated to Sheridan. The coach had an email sent out to every SHS coach and posted the first video, featuring Justin Vela, to the Facebook page “Story Time With the Broncs and Lady Broncs” on Friday.
One video will be posted every day during the suspension of school and Stephanie Vela received 12 videos by Monday afternoon.
“It means everything, it makes me smile,” Stephanie Vela said about receiving the videos from athletes.
Junior Julia Smart said she saw this project as an opportunity to connect with the elementary age students in Sheridan, showing them athletes care about them and the community is in this situation together.
Being leaders and assisting in the community is how Justin Vela was raised and reflects the culture coaches want to have surrounding Sheridan athletics.
“It is entirely the culture of the athletes and the programs,” he said.
The stories offer a source of distraction for the children in Sheridan County and for the athletes, too. Vela said he enjoyed listening to an audiobook or having a book read to him and wanted to share the experience with the Sheridan community.
Coon said this is an important time for the community to come together and an opportunity to do something for the elementary age children.
Stephanie Vela saw this as an opportunity to help the SHS athletes escape their own headspace and distract them from the fear of not having a spring season.
“Focus on something they control, they feel so out of control right now and their normal has been taken away from them,” Stephanie Vela said. “If they can do something and give to someone else, it lifts their spirits.”
Stephanie Vela saw Justin’s face light up when he read ‘Splat the Cat’ for the first video. She has heard from other parents who have enjoyed watching their teenagers pull their favorite picture book off the shelf to share.
Stephanie Vela said the plan is to continue posting one video a night while the school suspension is in effect and will compile the videos on Google Drive to be shared with elementary school principals.