Otsego freshman gets women’s football team to gather donations

By: 
Ryan Lewis

Mackenzie Phillips is hoping to bring some Christmas cheer to the less fortunate this holiday.
To do so, she convinced her new teammates on the Grand Rapids Tsunami to join her in organizing a toy drive through Dec. 17 for Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and the children who have to spend Christmas there this year.
The Otsego High School freshman just felt like reaching out.
“I just wanted to do something nice for people in need,” Mackenzie said. “And the team thought it was a good idea.”
The team is brand new. The Tsunami take the field for tackle women’s football in April for their inaugural season with the Women’s Football Alliance; tryouts were in October. Mackenzie, at 15, has played football with Otsego for five years, with two years of flag football, then middle school football followed by her year on the high school freshmen team. She also holds a national and world power lifting record from this past August, as the only girl in her age division in the United States on the list, through the World Powerlifting Congress.
The young offensive and defensive lineman was named coordinator and director of sideline affairs and is taking part in all non-contact practice. She will be eligible for contact play after she turns 16.
Players in the league pay their own way currently, but as the sport grows, the more than 60-team nationwide league hopes to flip that around.
Mackenzie had only been practicing with the team a week before mentioning her idea. Her mother, Heather Phillips, said the collection has already gathered 60 gifts at its four drop-off points since around Thanksgiving:
• Mezzo Coffee House, 100 W. Allegan St., Otsego
• West Michigan Chiropractic, 6475 Belding Road, Rockford
• Roots Brew Shop, 600 Seventh St. NW, Grand Rapids
• Grand Rapids Soccer Zone, 596 Baldwin St., Jenison
Heather Phillips said, “The team really came together to help the hospital; the other kids were really on board with having their own Christmas gifts go by the wayside and give them to help put a smile on other kids’ faces.”
Tsunami head coach Troy Johnson said his first thought when Mackenzie suggested the idea was that is was amazing.
“I was proud that one of our players would be thinking of ways to help others over the holidays. It was a very selfless act from someone so young,” Johnson said.
He said it was extremely well received by the entire Tsunami organization.
“We plan to make it an annual event,” Johnson said. “Community engagement and community service are important to this organization. This effort is helping point us in the right direction. It was good for team building and community involvement.”
The drive will wrap up this coming weekend on Sunday, Dec. 17. The team will then load up all of the unwrapped, new gifts on Dec. 20 or 21 and meet with a donation representative at the hospital. Health reasons prevent the team from delivering the gifts personally.
Phillips also set up a GoFundMe, www.gofundme.com/ gau4m-christmas-toy-drive, with a goal of raising $500 toward the effort as well.
Interested in donating and need some suggestions? Included on the hospital’s “wish list” are high need items such as interactive light-up/sound toys, Play Doh and Play Doh toys, and infant rattles/teethers. Other suggested items include gift cards, art supplies, small toys, card and video games, stuffed animals, child friendly Chapstick, and toddler board books.
Heather Phillips said she was very proud of her daughter.
“It fills my heart that she’s thinking of other people over herself,” she said.
Contact Ryan Lewis at rmlewis@allegannews.com or (269) 673-5534.
 

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