Fifty-one stops. Forty-nine houses and a supermarket. And it all occurred over the course of nearly 11 hours.
On Monday, May 4, Coach Gallagher was a proud and efficient ring bearer, bringing unexpected joy to each member of the Boonton High School football team.
Coach Gallagher hit the road to deliver the championship rings which the Bombers earned from winning the North Jersey Section 1, Group I championship last fall. There was going to be a ceremony this spring but the pandemic squashed those plans.
“The biggest factor in deciding to deliver them was the uncertainty with the coronavirus and when we would be able to get together to give out the rings,” Coach Gallagher said. “We have several players (Corey Dempster, Jordan DeCosta, Titus Johnson) who are going off to play college football and I was concerned that they would be gone by the time we were allowed to have a full ceremony.
“Plus, the rings were just sitting on our kitchen counter for a day and I just couldn’t wait to share them with someone.”
The ring delivery journey commenced at 11 a.m. and ended at 10:30 p.m. Coach Gallagher began the trip with his wife, Lauren, and his 7-month-old son, Kellen, in tow. Kellen, according to the veteran coach, became “hangry” after two hours and returned home with his mom. Coach Gallagher, like his never-quit players, trudged on.
The majority of the players were shocked by the surprise deliveries of the rings, which were purchased through donations obtained by the booster club. Many of the boys opened the box, gazed at the ring and immediately put it on. Coach Gallagher then captured the moments through video and photographs.
Bryan Leon, a senior outside linebacker and running back, got his ring via conveyer belt while working as a cashier at ShopRite. That dropoff was the most unique. Each boy’s elation was obvious but Leon and Jonathan Lockette, Coach Gallagher said, stood out as having the best reactions.
During the marathon trek, Coach Gallagher, a dog lover, met many pups, including Pearl at the Yanez house, Bam Bam and Bear at the Joinson residence and Brady, the Portas family pet.
“That made the trip even more fun,” Coach Gallagher said.
Joe Whritenour, the booster club president, was commended by Coach Gallagher for organizing the fundraising efforts.
“The show of generosity was incredible,” said Coach Gallagher. “Joe deserves a ton of credit. There were many others that also contributed greatly to the cause. It was incredible to see the way the two communities care about our guys and wanted to help.”
Donations by the alumni, many of whom played football decades ago, touched Coach Gallagher. He cited the time put in by John Schulien (Class of 1969) who drafted a letter to his teammates, spread out all over the state and country, with details of the stellar season and asked them to contribute.
“It truly made me feel blessed and grateful to be able to coach where I do,” he said.
Whritenour, too, was humbled by the contributions that went toward purchasing the rings as well as hats for each player and coach. Another donor gave 500 championship posters to commemorate the Bombers’ first sectional title since 2003.
“We put out letters in December and January through social media and parents went into town and took letters to businesses,” Whritenour explained. “Everyone was really into it. Donations were from graduates going all the way back to 1956. What everyone did was fantastic.
“I love Boonton High School football and I always have. There’s nothing better than high school sports. They’re so pure.”
Here’s the ring presentation video: