You might recall the story from last summer of Barrow High, Alaska's northernmost high school, deciding to field a football team. Although the Whalers won only one of their six games, the establishment of the team has been credited with turning around a staggering dropout rate and boosting morale at the school, located 340 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
The Whalers' impact has gone far beyond Barrow, reaching all the way to Florida, where Jacksonville-area accountant Cathy Parker is spearheading a move to replace Barrow's gravelly field next to the Arctic Ocean with artificial turf.
Parker got her inspiration last fall after seeing a documentary about the team on ESPN (you can view the two-part series here and here). She created a fundraising nonprofit called Project Alaska, with the intent of raising $500,000 for the project, and a website where people can donate should be up by the end of the month.
Parker already has a promise of a $100,000 donation from a banker and has approached NFL officials about a grant. ProGrass, a Pennsylvania company selling artificial turf, will subtract at least $75,000 from the $400,000 cost of a field, and Navy and Air National Guard officials are looking into flying or barging the field to Barrow.
As for the Whalers, they are expected to be much improved. The team will play an eight-game schedule, including the first Pipeline Bowl with Valdez, honoring the 800-mile line that sends oil from the North Slope to Prince William Sound. Barrow players, including several kids who weigh 265 pounds, are set to begin off-season drills this week in the snow.
In addition, the team has been invited to Florida to train this summer with Bartram Trail High, where Parker's husband, Carl, is a coach. Thanks to reader John!