For the first Friday night of the school year, it felt like fall. With hundreds of supporters from both schools dotting the sidelines, a cool but comfortable breeze made its way through Deptford Township High School’s football field as the Spartans did battle with West Deptford.
All eyes were trained on the gridiron, with the exception of a dozen or so folks working along the periphery. Like Deptford seniors John Cooper and Daniela McCurdy, who stood around a table just outside the stadium, selling raffle tickets for a prize basket.
The Deptford High School students are smart enough to pick up on the unlikelihood of a reporter talking to them rather than one of the football players.
“Other than both of us being in NHS (National Honors Society), we don’t get recognized for anything, so it’s good to know people are paying attention,” McCurdy said.
McCurdy and Cooper are also student-athletes. McCurdy plays soccer and basketball, while Cooper swims and runs cross country.
But they’re clearly more than student-athletes – McCurdy and Cooper are outstanding students despite all the time they commit to Spartan athletics. In recognition of their work, McCurdy and Cooper were nominated to represent the school as candidates for the Adam Taliaferro Foundation Service Athlete of the Year Award.
“It feels great to be acknowledged,” Cooper said. “It’s great to help out a cause we’re interested in.”
“Being an athlete and knowing what this is all for – you’re a small part of a big thing, so it’s really cool,” McCurdy said.
For every year since 2006, Adam Taliaferro’s Foundation selects dozens of student athletes throughout the tri-state area (New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware) to raise money for the cause. Taliaferro, a former standout at Eastern Regional High School, suffered a spinal cord injury while playing football at Penn State University. The money the student-athletes like McCurdy and Cooper raise throughout the year goes directly to athletes who suffer from severe head or spinal cord injuries, providing ancillary funding for those who need additional assistance.
At the end of the fundraising effort, the Taliaferro scholars have the opportunity to win a scholarship through the foundation.
“Coming from somebody who doesn’t have (a scholarship) for sports or anything else, getting something to help pay for college would be good,” said Cooper, who is hoping to go to the University of Pennsylvania next fall.
“I know I’m not getting a scholarship for soccer,” said McCurdy, who will continue to play soccer at Millersville University, “so this would help me in the long run after school.”
Cooper and McCurdy only began the fundraising in early October. They’ve set up a GoFundMe and are continuing to brainstorm ways to help bring more money into the Taliaferro Foundation in the coming months.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Deptford High School principal Jeff Lebb said. “That’s what we strive for, kids who, when they graduate, can be well-rounded. We have a number of kids like that and these two are prime examples.”
Strong performers both on the field and in the classroom – both are in Deptford’s BioMed program – Cooper and McCurdy are grateful for the opportunity to help others in need and thankful for being recognized by their teachers and coaches.
“Working hard for all the years and finally seeing it paying off, it’s a good feeling,” Cooper said.
“The more we looked into it, it was, ‘Oh my goodness, this is a big thing we got selected for, selected out of everyone else to do this,’” McCurdy said. “From the jump it was kind of cool. To see your teachers and peers acknowledging what we’re doing in school.”
If you would like to help Cooper and McCurdy’s chances at winning a scholarship, make a donation to the Taliaferro Foundation through their GoFundMe page, or find them at Deptford’s next sporting event.