HILLSBOROUGH – Like all high school sports teams this spring, the Hillsborough High School girls lacrosse program has seen its season canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The team endured almost two months of not knowing if or when they would be able to get on the field to compete this spring. It resulted in a season that was not meant to be when Gov. Phil Murphy announced on May 4 that all schools in New Jersey would continue to be closed for the remainder of the school year.
Despite all the heartache of not being able to compete and have fun this season, the girls who would have suited up for the Raiders stayed together and decided to put their focus on making a difference in the fight against COVID-19.
That initiative was creating personally made goody bags for healthcare workers at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital-New Brunswick to help them continue to treat those in need during the pandemic.
“It felt great to give back and show our support to our local healthcare workers,” Hillsborough Coach Kristina Dunphey said. “Our program loves to give back to the Hillsborough community. This was a way for us to show our support to the local hospitals in our areas that are working hard to help people in our community beat this virus.”
The goody bag donation idea came to be thanks to Samantha Hand, who is the mother of Hallie Hand, a freshman on Hillsborough’s team.
Hand started a donation drive to collect bottles of lotion and lip balm to give to healthcare workers at Morristown Medical Center. She started the initiative after talking to her friend Kim Michelson, who is a cardiothoracic physician assistant at the hospital and the mother of Ella Bandola, another freshman girls lacrosse player for Hillsborough.
Hand approached Michelson about how she could help her and other healthcare workers at the hospital combat COVID-19, and the doctor told her friend that lotion and lip balm were little things that could help them all out in the process.
From there, Hand set up a bin at her house for people to drop off the items that she would then give to Michelson to bring to the hospital.
As co-director of the Hillsborough Junior Raiders Girls Lacrosse Program, Hand spread word through the organization about her donation drive.
She would encourage people to use Amazon as a way to purchase items and send them directly to her, making it a safer transaction for everyone.
Kids in the Hillsborough Junior Girls Lacrosse Program also wrote more than 300 thank you cards and created homemade signs for the healthcare workers that were sent as part of the donations.
In total, Hand received more than 1,000 bottles of lotion and 975 lip balms.
“It was a safe and easy way for people to donate,” Hand said. “People in the Hillsborough community went out of their way to help spread the word and donate to the cause. It’s really a family like community. It’s heartwarming.”
Dunphey thought Hand’s initiative was a great idea after hearing about it, and decided to talk to her team about organizing a donation drive of their own for healthcare workers in their area.
The second-year coach and Hillsborough High School alum reached out to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital-New Brunswick about what type of supplies healthcare workers there needed.
Besides the essential personnel protective equipment, the hospital told her there were many things, from snacks to hair ties to lotion, that their healthcare workers would love to have – even being candies like lollipops and suckers to help keep nurses and doctors mouths’ from getting too dry.
Dunphey and her players then went to work, filling 37 goody bags of granola bars, protein bars, hair ties, hand sanitizer, lotion and candy that they would personally deliver to the hospital.
“This really helped lift our spirits,” Dunphey said. “Our girls came together and put their efforts towards trying to help healthcare workers out in any way they could. It shows you the type of people they are.”
The goody bags also included hand written notes and signs that were made by senior Tessa Norfleet to showcase the team’s support and appreciation for all the hard work that the healthcare workers have been putting in during the pandemic.
This spring was a much anticipated one for Hillsborough with high expectations, Dunphey said. With the coronavirus now wiping out the season, the coach admits she feels heartbroken for the seniors, and it is tough not being able to see what her team could have accomplished this spring.
Dunphey said the team will get together soon to honor the seniors with a Virtual Senior Night.
The coach is also hopeful for her players to possibly get a chance to play in a summer league or some type of senior all-star game if restrictions are lifted.
Dunphey states that the program’s philosophy is to help players become the best they can be and have that translate off the field in the classroom and in life.
“It just goes to show how very selfless our girls are,” Dunphey said. “They didn’t let the results of this season steal them from giving back to the community.”