Teenagers these days, right? Maybe it's easy to get jaded into thinking that too many of them care only about themselves, the next text message or who "tweeted" what on Twitter.
The Montour Maniacs Heck even have their own Twitter account @MHSStudentSect. They are great at basketball games. They are strong in numbers and definitely help add something special to Montour games. They dress up. They chant. But what they are doing this week says a lot about how there are still many teenagers out there who are not all about themselves and can do special things.
Last Thursday night, 13-year-old Ryan Heitzenrater, an eighth-grader at Montour, passed away at Children's Hospital of an illness. Montour basketball coach Adam Kaufman was one of Ryan's teachers. After Montour won the WPIAL Class AAA basketball title last Friday, Kaufman talked about how the championship was a little bittersweet because of Ryan's passing. Kaufman fought back tears on the court after the game, saying it had been a rough day thinking of Ryan, who was a football player at Montour and also played hockey. His older brother, Brandon, is a junior at Montour.
Now, here come the Montour Maniacs stepping up this week. A shoutout to them. With the help of some high school teachers, the Maniacs already have red T-shirts made up that read "Hail to Heitz," "Celebrate Life" and "Montour Spartans" on the front. The back of the shirts read "Ryan 61," in reference to his football jersey number.
The Montour students are selling the shirts to raise money for Ryan's family. And for tonight's PIAA playoff game between Montour and South Fayette, the Montour Maniacs are requesting a "Red Out For Ryan."
The Montour Maniacs Twitter account yesterday had this posted: "The official theme for the game is a #RedOutForRyan so wear as much red as possible in support of Ryan and his family." Other students have "tweeted" the goal is to sell 1,000 shirts and raise $5,000 for Ryan's family.
"They just want to help with expenses, like the funeral," Kaufman said today.
"These kids aren't just doing this for bonus points or something like that. They're doing it out of the goodness for the family. They genuinely care and I think that says something about kids and about our community.
"I don't know any teenagers that don't make mistakes, but I think something like this says something about kids. Obviously, everyone wants to win football or basketball games. But I think things like this put things in perspective. I think these students have seen what's important and it's something to see how they have come together."
So the next time someone says teenagers today are knuckleheads, tell them about the Montour Maniacs.
I will be covering the Montour-South Fayette game tonight. To the Montour Maniacs, I will give a gigantic salute. I bet somewhere Ryan Heitzenrater is also.