JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
LLANO — The smiles, hugs, and pats on the back made a 30-minute pep rally at Llano Nursing and Rehabilitation Center worth every second for residents and the Llano High School students who attended.
Every off-week since athletic director and head football coach Craig Slaughter took over the football program five years ago, the Yellow Jackets have sent players, band members, and cheerleaders to the facility to meet the residents.
The band played the fight song and school song as cheerleaders performed their routines.
The boys even handed out flowers as they bent low to talk to those who cheer them on each week, no matter the score.
Afterward, facility staff served cheeseburgers, chips, and water to the students.
“It’s great fun,” said resident Opal Rode, after she spent a few minutes talking to senior lineman Roberto Alcala.
Junior receiver Ian Fletcher then handed Rode a flower, which resulted in a hug from the resident.
“I think it honestly puts us closer together,” Fletcher said. “They tell us stories about what happened (in their lives). We see a different side to everybody. It’s a lot of fun, especially when you eat the burgers.”
Fletcher enjoyed three of those burgers.
Another resident, Mary Lou Grenwelge, took a photo with the high school mascot.
“I’m the number one fan,” she said as she showed people the flower and toy football the players gave her.
Naomi Adams, the facility’s activity director, said it means a lot to those living in the center to see the students.
“Our residents can’t go to the games,” she said. “They like seeing the players, the band, and the cheerleaders.”
Facility administrator Paula Judkins said these kinds of activities are good for the residents.
“The activities are so vital for this environment,” she said. “It’s always great for them to come and interact with our people. They are so grateful, and this is a great group of kids.”
She noted that when senior Jaden Napolez said grace, he specifically prayed for the residents, which was very touching for them and the staff.
“It’s so beneficial,” she said of the pep rally.
“It excites me to be out here with all of them,” resident Lois Faye McDonald said.
“They’re excited,” Fletcher said. “It’s the little things in life that matters the most and how much it matters to everybody to see us and the value of getting to talk to people.”
The Yellow Jackets’ tradition of visiting the center was started by former head coach and athletic director David Yeager in 2005. Yeager called it one of his favorite things while he was guiding Llano.