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Cleats donated to Akron Firestone football team after players seen wearing tennis shoes

A lesson of sportsmanship and compassion that goes well beyond the gridiron.

A high school football team in Akron got a big surprise from an unlikely source.

Last Saturday, during a football game between Massillon and Firestone, some players for the Falcons were seen playing the game in duct-taped cleats and tennis shoes.

Tiger players noticed and told their parents after the game. One of the Massillon moms posted about the game and how Firestone players needed cleats.

“It completely broke my heart,” Libby Ginther posted on her Facebook page. “I would like to do something about it.”

Dozens of other people commented on her post and also wanted to do something about it. Ginther raised around $200 for the kids after asking for donations. Also, one organization named “Fully Equipped” donated around 40 cleats to the team.

Firestone players are thankful.

“Surprised [and] thankful,” said Lafette Johnson, a senior wide receiver for Firestone. “[I] appreciate it."

"I was shocked when I got them,” Jahiem Moore, another Firestone player, said. “Happy that I got them."

For any football player, cleats are a necessity. For Firestone high school football players, it's more of a luxury.

“If we were playing in a game and we come out of our cleats, we can't play anymore," said Michael Chambers, a 10th grade football player for Firestone.

At Firestone, it's simple: kids need cleats. Many players on the team can't afford more than one pair. A lot of them wear shoes passed down by former players, which is left in a box inside of their locker rooms.

"Nobody wants to go to that box,” Firestone head coach Eric Mitchell said. “There's a humiliation part that goes a long with that."

Chambers was one of the kids seen wearing tennis shoes during the game. He says his cleats ripped open and had to play nearly a half of football in his tennis shoes.

"I ended up messing up my ankle and we had to forfeit the game."

Firestone's coach says he wants to meet that Massillon mom, so he tell her how much she helped his football team. He says he wants to give her big hug and say thank you.

“For her to even recognize and see that, tells me there is still some people out there that have a great deal of compassion,” coach Mitchell said.

Coach Mitchell will get a chance to give her that big hug on Friday. The two plan to meet before Firestone’s game at Ellet High School. Ginther, along with some players from Massillon, will drop off more donated cleats.

A lesson of sportsmanship and compassion that goes well beyond the gridiron.

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