Lights for the Fight-Mt. Carmel

Mt. Carmel High School turned on its football stadium lights for 20 minutes on the night of April 10 in an effort to honor health care workers, first responders and essential employees. Joined by schools around the state, the participants will continue the tradition until the quarantine is lifted. (photo courtesy of Mt. Carmel)

Mt. Carmel Athletic Director Dan LaCount is accustomed to a chaotic spring schedule.

An abundance of various sports activities mixed in with weather cancellations, postponements and rescheduled games always makes for a hyper-busy end to the school year.

With the high school spring sports seasons currently postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, LaCount wanted to do something, do anything, to brighten things up for his athletes.

On April 10 at 8 p.m., Mt. Carmel was one of more than a dozen high schools around the Chicago area to turn on their stadium lights for 20 minutes to honor the health care workers, first responders and essential workers who are still out in the field every day risking their lives.

“I thought of it [on April 9]. I’d seen an athletic director in Colorado do something similar for the seniors,” LaCount said. “It’s a pretty simple thing, but we wanted to do it for all those workers and just put it out there. A whole slew of schools joined in, so it was pretty cool to see.”

With some help from some colleagues at Mt. Carmel, LaCount produced a short video encouraging other high schools to join up, and he used #LightsForTheFight as the hashtag to help spread the word.

St. Rita, St. Laurence, Br. Rice, Montini, Marist, Andrew and Warren all joined in the first weekend with Loyola and Joliet Catholic also taking part.

The plan worked as well the next weekend on April 17 with countless other schools joining the cause across the state, including locally De La Salle, Evergreen Park, Marian Catholic and St. Ignatius.

“Our rivals at St. Rita jumped in right away, and that was perfect,” LaCount said. “It’s a simple thing, but we want to see what kind of traction we can get going forward.”

The first weekend went smoothly, although LaCount did receive some calls from a few curious neighbors near the school’s campus.

“I went out there, turned the lights on and cranked the music some. We received some calls that our neighbors were concerned someone might have broken in,” LaCount said with a laugh. “We told them everything was all right.”

LaCount intends to continue the tradition each Friday night from 8 to 8:20 p.m. until the quarantine is lifted as a symbol of hope as the world endures the pandemic.

“I talked to an athletic director who said it felt good just to turn the lights on,” LaCount said. “We will keep doing this until the quarantine is lifted. We can’t really control anything these days, but you want some control.

“This is the least we could to help honor all those health care workers, first responders and essential workers.”