Sheila Grove

ERIE — St. Luke School, Erie did not require the promise of a thank you event to motivate them to help those in need in January of 2020, when the Erie Catholic School System teamed with the Gannon Women’s Basketball Team for a service project. The six schools in the Erie elementary system were asked to collect particular items that would be donated to the Kids’ Café, the Neighborhood Art House and St. Martin’s Center, all in Erie. Each of the schools demonstrated an outpouring of generosity and collected 30,182 of the requested food and personal care items.

The St. Luke School, Erie, communty pose with the 17,050
items they collected for those in need as a backdrop in 2020.
Contributed photo

           Students, their families and staff from all six schools were invited to celebrate the project at the “Serve Game” held at Gannon University, January 11, 2020. They watched a Gannon women’s basketball team game and were treated to a celebrity game at half-time featuring Erie Mayor Joe Schember, Gannon University President Dr. Keith Taylor, and WNBA All-Star and former Villa Maria Academy standout, Kayla McBride. It was a fun way for the schools to join as a community. 

          The competition was not just on the basketball court, however. The schools engaged in friendly competition to provide some additional excitement to their giving. Gannon women’s basketball coach Cleve Wright promised a visit from the Gannon women's team to the the school that collected the most items.

          Before that could happen, however, COVID shut down the schools. Even after schools reopened, visitors were not permitted in the buildings for a time.

          Many may have forgotten about the promised treat and recognized that the good that was done for so many in the community was thanks enough, but Gannon remembered and on April 27, 2022, students and faculty gathered in St Luke School gym to celebrate the 17,050 items they donated to the local centers. Although delayed by two years, the timing was perfect for the St. Luke’s varsity girls’ basketball team to celebrate their third-place finish at the CYO state championships — held in Harrisburg in March — by having the opportunity to showcase their talent in a game against the college team. 

The St. Luke girls' varisty basketball team accepted the
challenge to a friendly game from the Gannon University
Women's team, April 27.                     Photo/SheilaGrove

          The height and experience differential resulted in the Gannon team having more success putting the ball in the basket, but St. Luke showed teamwork, good looks on the ball and talent at the free throw line. A lot of enthusiasm and good sportsmanship was showcased. 

          As part of the fun, the entire student body had the opportunity to explore the “hows, wheres and whys” of service. Assisted by energetic Gannon players each interacting with a group of students, students explored the need for accepting the call to serve — not just in collecting items to distribute but in meeting the needs of others whenever possible.

          The most important “why” is, “God wants us to serve others,” Coach Wright said, while addressing the students. “God loves, people love, and serving is an ideal way to demonstrate that love for all.” That is an important message at any time.