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Remembering their roots

They gathered to eat. They gathered to socialize. They gathered to rub shoulders with some of Thomson's gridiron greats.

But, most importantly, they gathered to make a difference.

More than 300 people gathered Friday night at Pitts Street Park for the inaugural Pigskin and Partners event, which brought business and community leaders together with residents from the Pitts Street area. They talked about what the residents would like to see happen in their neighborhood, and what the local leaders could do to help make it happen.

And it was an awesome success.

Now, I know I am biased about this situation: Remember, my wife is the executive director of Partners for Success - the group that organized the event and brought the crowds to Pitts Street to dine on Dairy Queen food.

Among the crowd were three of Thomson's most committed supporters - even though their lives and careers have taken them from the area: Danny Verdun-Wheeler and Casper and Jasper Brinkley.

Each of the young men - former Thomson High School and college football standouts who have tested or are testing their mettle as pro football players - were quick to jump at the chance to be a part of the event.

As Danny wrote in a text to my wife: "Anything for Thomson."

It was no accident that the event coincided with Danny's annual football camp. That meant the guys' schedules converged on Thomson.

Each of them took the stage during Friday night's event to encourage the youth gathered. They talked about the importance of education, staying away from bad decisions and other ways that youth could keep themselves ahead of the naysayers and negative influences.

But it was Jasper who said it best. He said he knows that every decision he makes, every step he takes, everything he does comes back to one thing: He's carrying the hopes, dreams and support of Thomson and McDuffie County with him. And he's not about to let that down.

The trio joined Rep. Sistie Hudson and Commission Chairman Charlie Newton in challenging other local leaders to match their individual donations to Partners for Success.

It would be easy for either Casper, Danny or Jasper to leave their hometown behind. They've followed the path of their talents and passions to places where they are role models and have power thrust upon them. However, they refuse to let their status go to their heads (which makes them far better off than some of our elected leaders).

And that says a lot about them, our community and the folks who helped them become the men they are.

Web posted on Thursday, July 16, 2009

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