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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: BWFA flourishes in support of Warriors

Founded in response to the failed School District 181 referendum in 2007, the Brainerd Warriors Football Association continues to flourish and it has several events planned this season.

Next up is the annual Pigskin Preview Saturday, Aug. 25, at Adamson Field. The Warriors will scrimmage Grand Rapids from 9 a.m. to noon. Following the scrimmage, players and parents will be served brats, chips and pop by BWFA members.

“Tackling Cancer Night” is scheduled Sept. 21 when the Warriors host Bemidji. The BWFA is partnering with the Minnesota Football Coaches Association and the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund to sponsor the event. Fans attending the game may make donations to the fund. Ninety percent of all dollars collected that night will go to cancer research, prevention and treatment and other cancer programs.

Shaver, current news anchor and former sports anchor of KARE-TV in the Twin Cities, and his foundation have raised more than $4 million to date.

BWFA president Brian Gapinski extols the virtues of being a BWFA member and called his involvement “wonderful.” Gapinski said he was asked to join when his oldest son, Tyler, was a sophomore and a few years later he finds himself as president.

Gapinski said he joined the group rather than gripe about activity fees that had skyrocketed after the referendum failed. He said the BWFA has helped reduce activity fees at the youth and middle school levels for three straight years.

“To me, the BWFA has been an extension of the football family in Brainerd,” Gapinski said in an email. “Though the core group has remained relatively small, we have been able to get help from others to support our mission, which has always been to simply support Warrior football.

“Warrior football can stand on its own feet, but I think the BWFA has made some significant contributions, at some key times over the past years. From selling $5 T-shirts to families so all kids could be part of the big picture, to the fee reductions for Forestview (Middle School) football, to the time volunteered for events like ‘Race for the Cure’ and “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.’

“The BWFA is more than just asking for support in many ways. What we take in, we put right back, be it coaching, buses, equipment, all-star game, or sponsoring a water stop at the (Komen Race for the Cure), to mention a few.

“With that being said, it would be unfair of me to not thank the supporters in this community. It just amazes me how generous people have been. Though we ask, year in and year out, they don’t flinch, they’re just so happy to support us and our mission. I can’t name them all there are so many.”

Gapinski said the BWFA has made an impact on his family.

“Learning the value of giving your time and doing community work is rewarding, educational and humbling, something we all need from time to time,” he said. “My wife, and my sons have enjoyed the time, volunteering, and the camaraderie among other players, parents, coaches, and school staff.

“We have met wonderful kids with wonderful parents and will always cherish Warrior football. Without BWFA, our involvement would be less, and the total experience unrecognized.

“As the years pass, I truly hope parents of football players take the opportunity to be a part of BWFA. It’s truly rewarding.”

Jon Ring, past president of BWFA and a current board member, said adversity calls for evaluation of priorities.

“Our family has had the opportunity to belong to a larger family that instills and reinforces lifelong values,” he said in an email. “When Warrior football was threatened, we who supported it, who are a part of it, responded.

“Who could forget the 2007 Alexandria playoff game? At the end of the game we went from the excitement of an apparent victory to weeping and pleading to God for our teammate’s life (Tyler Jensen). Then it was the news of the failed referendum and the prospect of facing a very good Wayzata team in St. Cloud to advance in the playoffs.

“Did the failed referendum mean that we did not have the support of our beloved Brainerd community? The packed house proved otherwise. With our injured teammate cheering in the press box, we scored on the final drive after facing many fourth downs. Adversity brings us together.

“We are thankful for the opportunity to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Our desire is that every student who chooses be given that opportunity. We know that we are part of something bigger than ourselves because no matter where you go in our great nation the football coaching fraternity knows coach (Ron) Stolski and the Warrior Way.”