West Virginia University Athletic Director Oliver Luck will show his support for middle school sports in Barbour County by walking the first three miles of a 172-mile trek from Philippi to Canton, Ohio on April 1.
Luck also announced Monday he will bring the WVU Mountaineer mascot, Jonathan Kimble of Franklin, to walk the first three miles of the charity event.
The One Step at a Time charity, which is organizing the walk, was created by Philippi Middle School science teacher and football coach Nick Mayle to raise money and awareness of the plight of the middle school sports programs in Barbour County.
"I was talking over dinner with my longtime friend Shirley Whitesell," Luck said. "She shared the difficult financial situation Barbour County is facing and said the board of education was considering cutting extracurricular activities for the students. I am a big believer not only in sports, but in extracurricular activities such as drama, newspaper and other activities that help keep students engaged and help them stay in school. I want to do what I can do to help."
Luck said he believes the students should get involved in the issue.
"Students need to lobby their school administrators and let their voices be heard," Luck said. "They are the ones being directly affected by the cuts. They, too, can share the fact that they want to see these middle school sports and extracurricular activities offered at their schools.
"While I sympathize with those looking at the financing, it breaks my heart when kids don't have the opportunities to participate in these activities," Luck said. "Every child should be able to have the experiences learned by sports and other extracurricular activities. We are looking forward to April 1."
Mayle said he reached out to Luck for help in publicizing the charity walk.
"I emailed Oliver Luck because he contacted the county office trying to make a donation to our cause," Mayle said. "I also invited him to our send-off breakfast and step-off ceremony for April 1. I thanked him for showing an interest in our dilemma. Imagine how wonderful I felt when I received a return email from him saying he would walk the first three miles of the trip with me and Marcus Johnson."
Mayle said his students are thrilled Luck is interested in what is going on in Barbour County.
"His support is great and it lets the kids know they are important and people care about what is happening to them," Mayle said. "I am so happy he will join us for the start of our journey."
Mayle and Johnson are dedicating their spring break to walking from Philippi to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. A send-off breakfast is slated for 6 a.m. April 1, followed by a gathering at the Philippi Courthouse Square at 7:45 a.m. The charity walk will officially begin at 8 a.m.
Citing a lack of funding, the Barbour County Board of Education voted Feb. 25 to eliminate middle school coaches from the county school system's payroll. The Barbour All County Sports Organization was formed to help raise funds to keep Barbour County's middle school sports going. Shortly after, Mayle formed One Step at a Time.
"As of Friday, we have raised more than $20,000 for the cause," Mayle said Monday.
A reception is slated for 1 to 5 p.m. April 6 in Canton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Barbour County's middle school sports programs.