Three NFL players who graduated from Aplington-Parkersburg High School returned to Iowa Sunday to raise funds for tornado victims. Brad Meester of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Casey Wiegmann of the Denver Broncos, and Jared DeVries of the Detroit Lions signed autographs at a Cedar Falls bar.
The event, which included a live auction and a silent auction, raised more than $200,000 for the school’s athletic programs. Ed Thomas, Aplington-Parkersburg’s football coach and athletic director says he can’t even put into words what the event means to the community. Thomas says the entire Cedar Valley has show "unbelieveable" generosity. Thomas thanked everyone for reaching out to the school and community.
Thomas is happy his former players are taking an active role in the relief effort. He says it shows the character and quality of the people they are. Thomas says he always tells his players to never forget where they are from and they have listened to that. Thomas says the players brought an ecnomic boost, but also a boost in moral for the community.
Event organizers say they raised more than double their $100,000 goal. An estimated 2,500 fans showed up at the fund-raiser. The line for autographs stretched more than four city blocks. Meester was surprised by the turn-out, as he says it’s unbelievable how many people came out.
Meester raised close to $90,000 toward the relief effort himself. He brought two checks from the Jaguars, which he presented to Thomas. Meester says they asked players and coaches to contribute to the relief fund or the high school, and his team owner also made a donation. Meester says they gave $24,000 to the high school and $65,000 to the relief fund.
Wiegmann says taking an active role in the relief effort is something that’s important to each of the players. He says the town and coach Thomas has done so much for them, so you want to return that. Five Parkersburg residents died when the EF-5 tornado destroyed nearly half the town on May 25th.
DeVries described how he felt when he first learned of the disaster and then saw it in person. He says you can’t believe it, and you get on the internet and see videos, and then you see it first hand and still can’t believe it.
In addition to the autographs, several items were auctioned off during the event. A Brett Favre autographed jersey sold for $3,100 and two Miley Cyrus-signed guitars brought in a total of $18,000. Aaron Kampman of the Green Bay Packers was the only former Aplington-Parkersburg alum who couldn’t make the event. He’s currently on a mission in Africa.