In just two years, the Frank Holleman Invitational has left its mark on the community by having a food drive to benefit the Homeless Coalition of St. Johns County.
According to Nease swim coach Gus Calado, the goal of the event was to honor retired longtime St. Augustine High swim coach Frank Holleman, and it was decided the best way to do that was to come up with something that makes it more than just another swim meet.
That goal did not take long to be achieved, as more than 400 non-perishable food items were collected throughout the meet.
“After the meet, we collect everything and take it down to St. Augustine,” Calado said. “It’s pretty cool to have the ability to be able to do this and have the local public high schools giving back to their communities.”
According to Calado, not only does the food drive provide support for those who are homeless and in need, but it also gives the student-athletes a sense of pride to know that they were able to make a difference in someone else’s life.
“Being aware of what’s out there is very important, and it’s cool when everyone really buys into it,” Calado said. “We’re definitely going to continue doing this food drive for the years to come.”
Some schools even hold a drive at their school knowing that the swim meet will be coming up, and then drop off all that they collected the day of the meet.
The food items collected are then delivered to the Homeless Coalition of St. Johns County headquarters in St. Augustine a couple of days after the event.
“It’s really rewarding, especially when you hand everything to them,” Calado said. “To see the look on their faces is just priceless.”
Fifteen schools took part in the event, including most public schools in both St. Johns and Clay Counties.
“We are really trying to target the local public schools, because most public schools don’t have an opportunity to swim in an invitational championship in town with prelims and finals,” Calado said. “We trying to target a different audience but offer the same thing for the kids.”
According to Calado, the feedback from other coaches has been so appreciative and they are happy to have such an event taking place in their backyard.
“Last year, really laid out the foundation of what to expect from the event, so that this year, people were asking about it and even more excited for the event to come,” Calado said.
He credits the food drive for also helping to drive interest in the event, because it separates the Frank Holleman Invitational apart from other swim meets taking place annually across the country.
“People are looking for ways to give back and this is a good format for that,” Calado said. “We’re happy with how everything has gone.”
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