In one week, ‘Will Work for Helmets’ coach got all his helmets, thanks to a hotel chain

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally
North Marion football coach Doug Bilodeau and his dog Sally will work for new helmets — Facebook
North Marion football coach Doug Bilodeau and his dog Sally will work for new helmets — Facebook

On March 12, Prep Rally wrote about Doug Bilodeau, the intrepid Aurora (Ore.) North Marion High football coach who was so desperate to get new helmets for his team that he stood by the side of the road with a “Will Work for Helmets” sign. At the time, the donations and work exchange offers for Bilodeau and his North Marion players were already helping amass many of the funds needed to earn the new helmets.

Now, 7 days later, all the helmets are paid for. For that, Bilodeau can thank both his own savvy idea and the charity of Hampton hotels, one of the Hilton company’s 10 sub-brands, which decided to tap into it’s broader community service initiative called Hands-on-Hamptonality to fund Bilodeau’s new helmets.

According to Hilton Worldwide Vice President for Corporate Responsibility Jennifer Silberman, Hampton officials read about the plight facing Bilodeau’s squad here on Yahoo! and were inspired to help.

That happy ending would be enough of a good story to celebrate, but it turns out that Hampton’s offer came with a twist, as well: The hotel chain would give all $7,000 needed for a full team set of new helmets … but only if the team followed through on its promise for community service. Hampton didn’t care where the community service was done, just that the North squad was active in its own community, giving back for the sake of giving back.

Fittingly, Bilodeau wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“I’m not the kind of person who is going to sit back and just take something,” Bilodeau told Prep Rally. “I was raised to have to work for it. The team is going to clean up some sawdust at a house for part of a donation for a helmet, and the woman who asked us to help said, ‘You’re not going to work, are you? You can just sit with me,’ and I said ‘Of course I’m going to work with my guys.’”

Regardless of how he got there, Bilodeau was adamantly determined to raise the money he needed for new helmets by the start of the 2013 season because, “Failure wasn’t an option.” Now that he has received all the funding he needs, the coach admits that he’s been sleeping a little bit better, all while wondering amazed at what his team can still do with the pledges it has made to do community service.

“This has just been such a blessing,” Bilodeau told Prep Rally. “It’s unbelievable. The ability to give back without asking for anything is huge for us. This community has three local high schools so people get hit up a lot for fundraising. Hampton gave us a way to give back without asking for anything. I can have my guys be Good Samaritans. That’s a valuable experience for them to learn, and it feels good for us to be able to walk up to a house that needs some help and say, ‘Good morning, today we’re going to clean up your yard and fix what we can, and it’s all on us.’”

Members of the North Marion football team at work for gear — Facebook
Members of the North Marion football team at work for gear — Facebook

Of course, it’s precisely that spirit that inspired Hampton to offer up its help unsolicited in the first place. The hotel chain is also in the process of refurbish a Boys and Girls Club gym in inner-city Atlanta, using free labor from Hampton employees to complete the renovation.

“It may not always be a coach, but what Coach Bilodeau is saying is exactly the philosophy of our program: There is no service act too small,” Hilton’s Silberman told Prep Rally. “Every community and every hotel and high school and community center can figure out about those needs and where it’s best suited.

“In general, I think what’s really great about this program is it touches on so many different intersections about community need: A school was facing budget issues but also a community had its own needs. Any time we can be involved on the local level and help both those causes is something we want to jump on to talk more about the importance about community service and volunteerism, and why these stories are so important.”

Bilodeau had a need, and now he somehow has a surplus. The coach said that if all of the odd jobs the team has been commissioned for independent of the Hampton program are completed, North Marion High’s football squad will raise some $30,000.

That’s a lot of new football gear, but it doesn’t even touch on the good will that the coach and his team have helped spread in Oregon, all of which started with a simple intra-familial joke.

“This is a huge relief. And we’re going to work for [the helmets and donations],” Bilodeau said. “When I say that I and my team are going to do something, we’re going to show up and work.

“When I die I can always look back and say ‘I was the guy with the ‘Will Work for Helmets’ sign on the internet.’ That’s pretty cool.”

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