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Honoring Seniors All Across The State

04/08/2020, 11:45pm CDT
By Tom Schardin

Stadium and ballpark lights are lighting up the Minnesota skies for 20 minutes, 20 seconds at 8:20 p.m., or 2020 military time.

It's to recognize all of the seniors across the state who have been sidelined from their respective Minnesota State High School League sport or club activity due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lights were shining bright at Prior Lake High School's Dan Patch Stadium on April 6. Roughly 250 high schools across the state participated in Twitter trending #BeTheLightMN. It won't be a one-time event either.

It will happen every Monday until at least May 4. That's the deadline date set by Gov. Tim Walz for students to return to school this spring with hopes sports and club activities can resume in some sort of way. 

If not, #BeTheLightMN will likely continue through May and perhaps until graduation.

Turning on stadium and ballpark lights may be only symbolic in nature, but it's a positive message that's surely needed in an otherwise difficult time for everyone, officials have said.

"I’ve been astonished by this," MSHSL Media Specialist John Millea told FOX 9. "I had no real idea what this would become. Certainly not that it would become as big as it has here. It’s been just so great to see all this positivity. Some towns, they’re bringing out all the first responder vehicles, they’re ringing the field and turning on the lights and putting on a show."

Turning on the lights is not just a Minnesota thing. It's happening all over the country.

According to Millea, it started March 24 at Dumas High School, which is in a small town about 45 minutes outside of Amarillo on the Texas panhandle. 

Unlike the NCAA, where college seniors in spring sports will get that one year of eligibility back, it doesn't work that way for high school seniors. Their final season will be lost.

"I have six seniors who do not know when their next game is going to be, what their graduation ceremony is going to look like, if they are ever going to be able to have their senior parties, and what their graduation parties are going to look like," Prior Lake softball Coach Kelsey Anderson said. "There is just so much unknown, and it breaks my heart to see this all being affected for them.

"They have no idea the impact of these sacrifices they are making for the safety of others, and it is extremely impressive to see how mature and selfless they are all being during this time," Anderson continued.

Marie Hansen, a language arts teacher at Burnsville High School, was certainly moved by #BeTheLightMN. 

Hansen tweeted: "I'm the least sporty person, but are you even a high school teacher if you're not sobbing over all these Friday Night Lights left on to light the way back home for the kids who will come back to fill these stadiums and schools someday?"

To see more photos of stadiums and ballparks lit up and even video diaries, go to the MSHSL Facebook page or mshsl.org.

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