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Jacket Football Players Lend a Helping Hand

                After 17 years of lending a helping hand to others as a police officer and first responder, Jason Vanderlaan found himself on the receiving end of 13 sets of helping hands belonging to the Cleburne Yellow Jackets.

                Members of the Jackets football team showed up in Vanderlaan’s yard on Saturday to help the police officer and his family move out of one house and into another. Vanderlaan, a member of the Cleburne Police Department who serves as the School Resource Officer at Wheat Middle School, severely injured his left hand in an equipment accident only days before the scheduled move.

                “Talk about bad timing,” Vanderlaan said. “I’m a pretty independent, do it on my own, kind of person,” he said. “I just thought I would work with one hand in getting things loaded up. It would take a lot longer, but that’s what we would do.”

                “But I have a good tribe of friends,” he said. “They didn’t ask--they told me--pick a day and we’re going to move you.”

                One of those friends, and fellow church member Alyson Smith, took it one step further in reaching out to Jackets Head Football Coach Casey Walraven to see if some of his players would be willing to help with the heavy lifting.

                “I think it’s very important we understand, as football players, as members of the Jackets football program and Cleburne High School—as human beings—we need to be here for one another,” Walraven said. “Through the years we have tried to drive that home—that we are put here for other people.”

“We’ve gotten to the point that all we have to say is ‘some people need help’” Walraven said. “So on Easter weekend, at the drop of a hat, I had 13 kids in the Vanderlaan’s yard ready to help. I’m real proud that these players took the time out of their three-day weekend to do this. We look forward to more opportunities in the future.”

Among the Yellow Jackets heeding the call was senior defensive lineman Randall Taidrik, who is planning on a career as a firefighter.

“I’m all about helping,” Taidrik said. “When I found out that it was Officer Van we were moving, I was so glad I came. When I was a student at Wheat, I would talk to him all the time. I haven’t seen him in a while, so it was great to be a part of this.”

When Vanderlaan learned some team members were coming, he expected a handful. What he got instead was a swarm of Jackets, who made quick work of getting things loaded—then unloaded at his new home.

“They were great. What would have taken me a couple of days, they took care of in an hour,” Vanderlaan said. “It was amazing. You didn’t have to tell them anything, except where to put things. The whole thing was just phenomenal. They showed up and went to work.”

“They are a fine group of young men,” he said. “They showed some good raising and I know they made their coaches proud. They didn’t have to spend their morning doing this. We’re just so grateful to them. They’re really good kids.”

Vanderlaan’s wife, Jennifer, had words of her own in describing the Jacket movers.

 “We were concerned how the day would go,” she said. “Then God sends us 13 boys who swoop in and do this quicker than we could.”