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Denair student organizes relief for Mariposa fire victims
Mariposa donation pic1
Drew Pritchard (far right) hands groceries to members of the Mariposa High boys basketball team, whom he wanted to help after years of playing against each other. - photo by Photo courtesy of the Mariposa Gazette

The high schools in Denair and Mariposa may be Southern League rivals on the sports field, but when DHS student Drew Pritchard heard news of the massive Detwiler Fire affecting Mariposa County and many of its students whom he played against, the athlete decided to take matters into his own hands.

Pritchard, a junior at DHS, was in Monterey with his father in late July as the massive fire raged through the hills just north of Mariposa, causing hundreds to be temporarily evacuated from their homes as firefighters from all over California traveled to battle the blaze.

Immediately upon hearing about the fire, Pritchard’s mind went to the student athletes he has competed against in football, basketball and golf over the years.

“Because we play them once a year in football and twice a year in basketball, I didn’t want to see those guys down,” said Pritchard. “It’s not fun to hear about people in that situation.”

Pritchard and his father, Dale, decided to help in whatever way they could. They purchased a few hundred dollars’ worth of groceries, and enlisted the community to help as well. Donations from community members were dropped off at the DHS weight room, and the Pritchards’ family doctor, Dr. Krishan Goel in Turlock, put together care packages complete with diapers, Pedialyte, medicine and other necessities. Grocery stores joined the cause as well, with Turlock’s Raley’s and Save Mart donating crackers, cookies and water to add to the growing list of supplies for those affected by the fire.

On July 27, Pritchard, Dale and DHS student Steffin Winston, one of Pritchard’s basketball teammates, drove to Mariposa High School where they met up with the Mariposa basketball team to deliver the supplies. The Mariposa athletes then distributed the groceries throughout the community to those in need.

While Pritchard added that he and the other basketball players from Mariposa weren’t the closest of friends, they are “cool with each other,” and often say hello when their playing schedules meet.

“It was easier to set aside that rivalry because I knew them. If it were a different school, it might have been harder,” said Pritchard. “They were very appreciative.”

Pritchard said that he had seen TV reports of the Detwiler Fire, which burned more than 81,000 acres and destroyed 63 homes and one business before it was contained.

“I know I wouldn’t want to be in that situation,” said Pritchard.

Both Mariposa High School and the surrounding community was extremely grateful for Pritchard’s effort, he said, adding that the Mariposa principal told him she was going to embarrass him the next time the two teams meet by running onto the court and giving him a hug.

Pritchard’s own principal at DHS, Kara Backman, said she is proud to call him a Coyote.

“Drew is a thoughtful, hard-working and polite young man,” she said. “He has the internal drive of a student athlete and is always there to lend a hand to a fellow peer.”

While Pritchard was glad to see the grateful reaction from Mariposa and support from his home town, the experience was gratifying to him as well.

“It was very eye opening,” he said. “Sometimes I take going to the grocery store and getting food for granted. It was nice to see people actually appreciate stuff we gave them.”