Head Custodian Saves the Day for Athletes

At a time when school budgets are being slashed to the bone, perhaps no other programs have been dealt more serious blows than sports. For the most part, these cuts seem to be hitting high school sports programs the hardest. But at one Connecticut high school, a most unlikely savior has gone above and beyond to ensure that freshman sports would survive.

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'The Custodian of People's Hearts and Souls'

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In April 2010, Mansfield High School in Massachusetts was forced to cut all sports programs. In Duval County, Florida, high school sports are one casualty of a trimmed budget for the 2011-12 academic year. In July this year, all athletic programs were cut from Connecticut's 16 vocational-technical high schools. At high schools around the country similar stories can be found, and it seems that no school has been fortunate enough to have that one special individual who could make all the difference in the world.

Until now.

His name is Billie Anderson, and he's not the director of the sports program at Danbury High School. He's not a coach, an administrator or even a concerned parent of one of the 200 kids who would have been affected by the elimination of the high school's freshman sports program, which was proposed last April as part of the Board of Education's deep budget cuts.

He's the head custodian. And he is the person most responsible for freshmen at Danbury High School taking the field this fall. Drawing on his own background of hard work, helping others and understanding sacrifice, Anderson went to work immediately after hearing the freshman sports program was in danger.

Psychology teacher Cindy NeJame, who is also the director of school plays, told DanburyPatch: 'He is the custodian of people's hearts and souls. He is a role model for anyone who knows him.'

Rallying Parents to 'Save Our Sports'

So how did Anderson defy the odds and raise enough money to keep Danbury High freshmen on the field?

It all started by handing out flyers at graduation ceremonies this past June, urging parents to attend a meeting at Danbury Youth Services. Twenty parents wound up attending the meeting, and the same would be heard at a Danbury Board of Education meeting held shortly thereafter. He then became chairman of the Save Our Sports program. Ten parents joined. Together, the group held fundraising events and sold T-shirts.

It was all enough to raise $30,000 within a matter of weeks. 'He rallied the whole community,' NeJame said.

Anderson said it was simply a matter of taking a stand and getting involved. Getting involved, it seems, has been something Anderson has never been shy about. In addition to his custodial duties, Anderson has helped coach freshman basketball, been in school plays and has driven a van whenever coaches have needed to rent one. Perhaps most of all, when freshman sports needed him most, he stepped up big time.

So, not surprisingly, on the first day of practice this fall at Danbury High Anderson walked out onto the field to thunderous applause. 'These kids need sports,' Anderson told DanburyPatch in September. And, apparently, the freshmen at Danbury High School need Billie Anderson. Hundreds of high schools across the country forced to sacrifice sports programs to budget cuts could likely say the same.

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