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The Big Picture: Dodgers, Gaels work together to turn an impromptu meet into a charity event - from The Messenger

April 29, 2021

girls running on the trackThis wasn’t about Dodgers or Gaels. Choosing sides or declaring allegiances.

On Tuesday, the parents, coaches and kids involved with a local middle school track meet simply had the greater good of Fort Dodge in mind.


An exhibition matchup between the local seventh and eighth grade girls squads was filled with a lot of laughs and memorable moments. No team scores were kept; no individual times were officially reported.

The only number that mattered was 200 pounds: the approximate amount of food collected and donated in lieu of an admission fee.

“We wanted to make it about something bigger than all of us,” said Quennel McCaleb, an FDMS track coach. “The theme was Fort Dodge and St. Edmond doing something positive for Fort Dodge. We wanted the kids to have fun. Laugh. Take pictures. We didn’t care if they were Dodgers or Gaels. They know each other. There’s no reason for hard feelings or animosity.

“We need to do more things that will bring our community together.”

McCaleb pitched the idea to FDMS Dean of Students Bruce Hartley after the April 19 middle school Dodger Relays were called off due to inclement weather.

“The current eighth grade girls missed out last year due to COVID, and now they were going to have the same thing happen (a cancellation) for their only home meet in front of family and friends (in 2021),” McCaleb said. “They were really disappointed, and I know the Gaels felt the same way. So I went to Bruce and asked if we could put something together here in our own backyard (at the Fort Dodge Middle School). We have nine lanes — let’s just get a mini-meet planned with local and area schools and have a food drive (for cost of admission).

“Bruce got the details ironed out and set it all up. And the other (FDMS girls) coaches, Ashley Canto, Lexi Herbert and Shelby Curry, along with (St. Edmond seventh and eighth grade coach) C.J. Tracy. We worked together and really made the most of what was a disappointing situation for the kids.”

Tracy dropped off “at least 200 pounds” of food on Wednesday at Upper Des Moines Opportunity in Fort Dodge.

“The girls were all really looking forward to running in front of family and friends here locally, so this was a great chance to not only make that happen, but realize it’s never too early to start helping those in need,” Tracy said. “When we finished up, we discussed what we had accomplished (collectively) with all of the boxes of food and canned goods sitting together.

“I give the parents and families a ton of credit for rallying around this idea. After the meet, Quennel, Bruce and I were talking about maybe making this a yearly thing, including the boys and just having fun with it while also doing something positive for Fort Dodge.”

McCaleb made sure the teams saw the big picture as well.

“We’re hoping we can turn this into a regular event,” McCaleb said. “We took a negative, with COVID and the weather, and turned it into an opportunity.

“It’s all about kids getting that Dodger Experience until the day they walk across that stage (for graduation) someday.”


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