HUTTO, Texas (KXAN) — The first home football game of the new school year in Hutto will pit the Hippos against a team from El Paso.
The game comes after a deadly mass shooting on Aug. 3 left 22 people dead.
The tragedy made the Hutto Independent School District want to show support and solidarity with its opponent, the Del Valle High School Conquistadores from the Ysleta Independent School District.
Ahead of the game Friday night, Hutto ISD began selling a blue T-shirt with the words “Hippo Nation is El Paso Strong” written in white lettering. The district sold more than 400 shirts, and it plans to give proceeds from the sales to a support group for first responders in El Paso.
“It’s just our tiny, little way that we can say, ‘Hey, we’re here with you. We’re a long way from you, but we’re standing right here beside you,’” said Todd Robison, the director of communications and community relations for Hutto ISD.
That gesture from her employer meant a lot to Elva Torres, the federal, state and special programs coordinator for Hutto ISD.
“It’s just hard for me because I have family back in El Paso,” Torres said.
She and more than 20 other Hutto ISD employees who grew up in El Paso will give a piece of artwork to the other team Friday night.
“We’re going to show the El Paso community that we’re going to stand with them through this healing process, that they are still in our thoughts and in our prayers,” Torres said.
Hutto ISD is also encouraging people to sit on the visitor side of the stadium since the El Paso team likely won’t have a lot of fans travel with them for the game Friday.
“We still want those fans to cheer for the Hippos,” Robison said. “But at the same time, there’s just something symbolic about having some folks sitting there behind you to let you know that you’re not all alone after you made that long trip.”
As an extra incentive to get fans in the seats, the owners of the Hippo Cafe in Hutto will give out free appetizer coupons to send a message:
“That Hutto takes care of people and that Hutto’s a great place to live and we’re with them,” owner Stacie Feller said. “We know they’ve been through a lot, and we want to see them do well.”
So far Hutto ISD has raised about $2,000 through the shirt sales to give to the charity in El Paso. The district plans to donate more because it’s going to put the shirts up for sale again soon on its website.