It is a night of faith, family, and football. It is a time to connect with friends. It is a celebration of the Gibbons spirit. It is Family Football Night '18.
It is a recent Friday at 4:45 PM. Tables are being positioned beneath tents of varied colors and sizes, tailgates are just getting started, and a crowd is beginning to form in the parking area near the athletic fields. In front of the glass doors of the school’s rear entrance The Jukeboxes are performing one of their songs and listeners are keeping beat. Students, parents, and educators from Gibbons are engaging with their counterparts from 25 area middle schools as Bishop Luis Zarama and Principal Jason Curtis mingle with families.
It is Friday afternoon on September 7 and this is Family Football Night 2018. The much-anticipated annual event took place from 5-7 PM prior to the home varsity football game against Cleveland High School. More than 1,000 people attended the event, which is sponsored by the Cardinal Gibbons Family Association.
“Families who attend Family Football Night experience the joy, passion, and love that Cardinal Gibbons students, educators, and parents feel for their community," said Gibbons Parent Veronica Beason who chaired the event. "It is an evening during which our Gibbons families come together and engage with our middle school visitors, so all feel welcome, have a great time, get a glimpse of life at Gibbons, and create some special memories.”
Among the attendees was a group of over 50 families from St. Mary Magdalene (StMM) Catholic School who were tailgating under a tent, where food and fellowship were doled out in abundance. StMM families have gathered at the event since its inception in 2009. Joining them this year was StMM Principal Robert Cadran.
Describing the evening, Gibbons Parent Anne Burge said: “FFN not only builds our STMM community but it allows our families to experience the Gibbons community as well.” She along with fellow Gibbons Parent Nicol Frewerd are Middle School Ambassadors.
The StMM families were not alone. Joining them were eight other Catholic middle schools as well as St. Timothy's and 15 local middle schools, who shared their school pride as well as their Gibbons pride before the game. Representing the Catholic middle schools were: OLL, Immaculata, Sacred Heart Cathedral School, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Michael, St. Raphael, St. Thomas More, and The Franciscan School.
Along with tailgating, attendees also enjoyed taking part in a variety of pregame festivities, run by Gibbons students. Those activities included face painting, a photo booth, games for elementary- as well as middle-school-aged students, and contests such as green machine races. In addition, participants were treated to complimentary admission to the football game. There also was a contest for the best tailgates, with Golden Spatula awards given in different categories.
The Gibbons student engagement at Family Football Night is always impressive, said Veronica Beason. “It’s clear the students love Gibbons and want to share it. Their leadership, joy, and generosity capture the Gibbons experience.”