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Volunteers the foundation for football programs

Photo: Karl L. Moore Dacula Touchdown Club President Dan Buchanan walks the sidelines prior to the start of a game against Collins Hill this season.

Photo: Karl L. Moore Dacula Touchdown Club President Dan Buchanan walks the sidelines prior to the start of a game against Collins Hill this season.

They all have the same reason for doing it at first.

Their son was a member of the football team. To be a part of the program and support their son, they volunteered.

For some, it was painting the field or holding the first down marker during games. For others it was keeping stats or helping the PA announcer during the game. Others gave their time by serving on the booster club.

Whatever the reason they supported their sons' teams, they could have easily stopped once he graduated. But they didn't.

Every Friday night there's a group of volunteers that help make the game atmosphere go smoothly. Some of them have been doing it for a year or two, others have been involved for 10 years or more.

"It's because of the kids and community," said Brookwood's Mike Mercier, who has helped the program for 20 years, including the last seven as booster club president.

"I went to school with (coach) Mark (Crews). I treat them as friends and the community has treated my family well. I enjoying being around the kids."

Mercier's sentiments are echoed around the county. Coaches meet parents and members of the community and they develop relationships that continue even after their kids have left the school.

"When Keith (Maloof) first got here, I was one of the first people he met," Norcross booster club vice president Kevin Kucera said. "He put me in charge of fundraising and I did that for seven years as vice president of the booster club. High school football is my passion. I don't hunt and fish. I get to volunteer and high school football is my passion."

Kucera is a 1978 Norcross grad and his two sons -- Tyler and Andrew -- were all-county football players for Norcross. Kucera along with Glenn Mitchell served on the chain gang for 16 years.

Harvey Snider has been the booster club president for the last eight years.

Bill Bryant call tell you any stat about Norcross football. He's been the team statistician for 35 years.

Bob Saville has been the treasurer for eight years and Greg McFarland, a 1991 Norcross grad, has been the game day filmer for 14 years.

"I not only did it for my kids, I did it for myself," Kucera said. "It's my hobby. I love the commradierier. I told Keith when he retires, I'll retire."

Norcross has a tight-knit group of volunteers, just like Collins Hill. The Eagles' Frosty Plunkett has been announcing games since the school opened in 1994. Scott Desing and Steve Young have also been around a long time, helping with meetings, building, painting, concessions and field maintenance since the school opened.

"That's three great old timers who I could not do without," Collins Hill head coach Kevin Reach said.

Longtime volunteers can make the transition easier for new coaches. When Tim Hardy became the head coach at Greater Atlanta Christian, he was able to rely on Barney Atwater for help. Atwater has been at the school since 1992 and has had five children graduate over the last 20 years. He handles everything from the concessions, weekly sports newsletter to public address announcing for football games.

So why stay with a program when your kids are no longer involved? Don Neff thought he was done volunteering at Mill Creek until head coach Shannon Jarvis approached him on senior night in 2006.

"He said your son is graduating, but you're not," Neff said. "It's part of the community. I like to help people whenever I can. I said this is a need and I'm going to stay on."

Neff, along with his oldest son Thor, help maintain the practice and game fields at Mill Creek. It's hours of hard work that Tim Van Horn can relate to each week.

Van Horn takes off Friday from work for every North Gwinnett home game to maintain the Bulldogs' field. He's on the field more than five hours before kickoff, making sure the lines and logo are painted just right.

"Right now I'm doing it because I love doing it," Van Horn said. "I guess because it's community. We've had a strong community here. It's something I can give back."

Countless hours, days and years go by. But these volunteers and many others around the county see it as a privilege to help their community.

Tom Marley has been a volunteer for so long at Shiloh that the school named its new field house after him.

"I keep doing it because the way the world is today, I want these kids to be successful," said Marley, who has been volunteering for 26 years. "When you set a good example, they are seeing it."