De Soto, UW-La Crosse football reflect on efforts helping flood victims last August

We are continuing to look back at the record-breaking flooding that tore through communities last August. After the water settled, community members went to work to clean up the aftermath.

“They say it’s the 100-year flood every year,” said Ev Wick, head football coach at De Soto High School.

Fifty-two weeks ago, a foot of rain gashed through communities taking a big piece of people’s lives.

“We knew things were bad,” Wick said.

Wick doesn’t want to experience that again.

“Hopefully things will start getting better here,” he said.

In the midst of devastation, his team offered something to those desperate for help.

“I am a small-town guy from northern Wisconsin,” Wick said. “I know what all of that small-town living is all about.”

The team got in their cars and helped folks along Highway 35 picking up the aftermath of some of the worst storms in years.

“We had 25-30 sets of hands who were willing to do that,” he said.

But they needed more help. UW-La Crosse head coach Mike Schmidt took is team of 150 to join the effort.

“He reached out and said, ‘We are helping out, are you in?’ We said, ‘Yeah absolutely we are in,'” said Mike Schmidt, head football coach at UW-La Crosse. “Our guys said, ‘Let’s help out and see what we can do.'”

The teams’ goal is to win on Friday’s and Saturdays, but football is only a sliver of their mission.

“If you don’t help out, you are more of the problem than the solution,” Wick said.

Coach Wick remembers a time when they were in need of a hand. Three years ago this small creek turned into the school’s biggest nightmare.

The team lost its field. They had to play every game in 2017 on the road and most of its 2018 season away from home. The team didn’t worry about what they lost, they only focused on what they could give.

“Somebody’s house is definitely more important than a field,” Wick said. “We can fix a field. We told the kids there’s nothing they could do about that, but let’s go out and do something positive around something negative.”

The team volunteered again last year with UW-La Crosse, helping clean up a week’s worth of damage in a single day.

“These people are coming to their games on Fridays,” Wick said. “It’s the least they can do is help clean up for a couple of hours.”

Schmidt said no amount of conditioning or film study can provide the lessons these young men will carry with them from this moment.

“That wasn’t a team-building activity that we did,” he said. “It was something where our players said, ‘There is a need for us to help.'” They jumped in and our team, our season, and our win-loss record no doubt benefited from those moments coming together as a group. That’s going to be invaluable to those guys moving forward.”

The lessons don’t stop there.

“Something simple like holding a door open for somebody or saying please and thank you,” Wick said. “That stuff goes a long way. That stuff gets overlooked in our every day lives.”

Community members across the region created a Facebook page to spread the word about where help was needed. Teachers from Westby helped clean up damage in Coon Valley along with several athletes from Westby High School.

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