Led by Chardon, Western Reserve Conference will raise funds to help Houston-area football teams

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Doug Murray knows all about taking the lead through tough times.

As Chardon High School’s principal, he’s helped with the healing since the 2012 school shootings.

Murray is grateful he wasn’t alone in the efforts. He said hundreds of schools, many from the area and others from across the United States, reached out to assist in any way.

Murray and others are returning the favor with others in desperate need.


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In the wake of the destruction in the Houston area by Hurricane Harvey, Chardon has led the charge to get the Western Reserve Conference to work together for a fund-raising effort to assist Houston-area football teams.

Murray, who serves at the conference’s president, came up with the idea he calls the “WRC Challenge.” The goal was to have the entire conference on board with assisting Houston-area high school football programs affected by the hurricane.

Murray shared a Google doc with the principals and athletic directors within the conference, which consists of Chardon, Madison, Eastlake North, Willoughby South, Riverside, Mayfield, Brush and Kenston.

All schools immediately joined the effort, which officially begins this weekend.

“It was kind of a phenomenal collaboration of having an idea, having two senior girls having an idea, having Tim Armelli come up with an idea, all at the same time,” said Murray. “It was like we all had the same idea.”

That core of idea was simple: Help Houston.

Chardon seniors Jennifer Bender and Kate Zmarzly came up with the idea for their senior project to assist those affected by Hurricane Harvey with fund raising.

Armelli, the school’s physical education and health teacher, came up the idea to adopt a conference in Houston. Those plans are still being finalized.

“The executive director I talked to out there said they are still assessing damages, and that some schools still aren’t open,” said Armelli. “I said, ‘We’re here to help.’ ”

High school football in Houston is designated by districts and not conferences, said Murray. The goal is to align with an 8-team district in Houston.

“We thought the greatest way to contribute was to connect with a conference in Houston that is similar to (the WRC),” said Murray.

From there, the idea kept growing.

“I said, ‘You know, we need to go bigger.’ “ said Armelli. ”Our conference is blessed with so many great administrators and coaches. Let’s try to get everyone involved.”

Conference play begins Sept. 15 with four WRC games — Riverside at Chardon, South at Madison, Mayfield at Brush and Kenston at North. Kickoff for all games is 7 p.m.

T-shirts will be on sale at each game for $15. All proceeds from the sale of shirts throughout the season go to the Houston-area teams eventually adopted by the WRC.

The shirts sport a design of the downtown Houston skyline with outlines of the state of Texas and Ohio with red hearts sprinkled over the skyline. A message reads “Faith + Hope + Love.” All the WRC conference teams are listed on the shirt.

Murray studied education in college, but also graphic design. He designed the logo himself in one night.

It’s been a busy time for Murray leading the fund-raising effort, but a good busy.

“The tragedy that happened at the school does not define us,” said Murray. “But it allowed us to see what our values were at Chardon, and to help communicate them. We just don’t want to say what they are. It helps keep us grounded and to respond to not only help those in our own building, but to respond to those outside our building.”

Each school received 350 T-shirts to sell during school lunch hours and at home football games. The goal is to raise $42,000.

Donations can also be made at any Huntington Bank branch to the WRC Challenge account.

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