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Bigger than football: Pasadena Poly team makes major impact in community


Pasadena Poly head football coach Chris Schmoke’s house is cramped.

“My wife is also a teacher,” Schmoke said. “We have four kids and we’re all trying to do online learning at the same time in a house that barely fits us to begin with.”

So for now, that means dad’s office is in the garage.

“Crazy days,” Schmoke said.

Seven years ago Schmoke took over as head coach at Pasadena Poly, a small independent school.

“It’s a different kind of spot,” Schmoke admitted. “We don’t get anyone at Poly who’s coming to play football. They’re all coming here to go to school. They’re coming for the opportunity because it’s a great place. … When I took over I thought, this is an opportunity for me to do things the way I want to. … I really wanted to focus on life outside of football.”

Having his players help out in the community is very important to Schmoke. The Poly football team has volunteered at the Pasadena soup kitchen and also put on youth clinics for children in the area.

But where Schmoke’s team has had the biggest impact is the Halloween Carnival the players help put on for children at Hillsides Education Center. Located in Pasadena, Hillsides is a school that provides a safe and stable environment where children and youth who cannot live at home, suffered trauma, or have severe emotional or behavioral challenges, can thrive.

For the last six years, Schmoke has sacrificed a day of October practice and sent his team to Hillsides where the boys volunteer to run booths and hang out with the Hillsides residents.

“Our kids love working with the kids and their kids get the chance to meet new kids from a different setting,” Schmoke said. “We’ve made great connections.”

The event continues to be a huge hit. Hillsides Community Resources Director Laura Kelso said the carnival would not be possible without the help of the Poly football team.

“Each year coach Schmoke arrives with 30 plus jersey-wearing football players,” said Kelso. “Enthusiastically they help set-up and decorate the area and wait for Hillsides’ kids to arrive. The kids love the games and prizes but more importantly, they love spending time with the Poly Football guys.

“The hardest group of residents to please during events are the teen boys. Each year I’m amazed to see the Hillsides teens completely engaged with the Poly guys, throwing the football around, joking and laughing, I am always impressed at the maturity and emotional compassion the guys show towards the kids. The Halloween Carnival would not be possible without the help and partnership from the Poly Football team and we are so thankful for them each and every year.”

The last two seasons, Schmoke has canceled a practice during Rio Hondo Prep week to help put on the Halloween Carnival. Rio Hondo is Poly’s arch rival. That game usually decides who wins the Prep League.

“That’s how much the event means to us,” Schmoke said.



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