In darkness, lights of hope
Starting this week, Ely High School will turn the lights on at its baseball and football fields and join a campaign that now includes approximately 250 Minnesota high schools.
Both Monday and Friday evenings, the lights at Veterans Memorial Field and Ely School Stadium will go on at 8:20 p.m., and stay on for approximately 20 minutes and 20 seconds.
With high school athletic activities suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic, #BeTheLightMN started last week and has quickly picked up steam.
From north to south, schools and in some cases entire conferences have come on board to turn on the lights one or two nights each week to show support for and solidarity with their students, staff and communities.
Lights have gone on at football/soccer/lacrosse stadiums, baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, all over the state.
“It’s been a difficult spring for our students, especially our seniors who are missing out on so many memorable moments,” said Tom Coombe, athletic director at the high school. “So many schools across Minnesota are turning on their lights to let the students know we miss them and that we recognize their sacrifice during these difficult times.”
All high school activities and athletics have gone dark since mid-March, putting spring sports including baseball, softball, boys and girls track and boys and girls golf on hold.
The shutdown also curtailed Ely’s speech season, derailed plans for the senior class trip to Washington, D.C. and has forced the postponement of events including the high school prom, awards day and junior/senior banquet.
Schools in Minnesota are closed at least until early-May, but Gov. Tim Walz has hinted that the shutdown may be extended through the end of the school year.
That would almost certainly end hope for a spring sports season that for now has only been suspended by the Minnesota State High School League.
“I think any resumption in activities will hinge on what the governor does with the schools,” said Coombe. “I know there have been discussions at the high school league about abbreviated seasons starting sometime in May, but I think those discussions are moot unless school comes back in session”
That makes the light campaign all the more important, school leaders across Minnesota say, as they pay tribute to students.
Gatherings are discouraged at the respective venues, but in some communities across Minnesota, vehicles have formed lines with headlights in conjunction with the stadium lighting. A complete list of schools taking part in the initiative can be found on the MSHSL Facebook page.