Throughout the school year, every year for the past decade, Robert and Debbie Leal have been there.
They have been there, not only to watch their children participate in sports at Escalon High School, but also to lend support and help coordinate snack bar duties, especially at Engel Field during the football season.
During the team’s final home game, a playoff victory over Calaveras earlier this month, the two were recognized by public address announcer/game commentator Greg Largent for their years of service. At the recent Fall Sports Awards Night, recognition was given again, this time with first-year Athletic Director Nate Bartelink publicly thanking the two for their service and presenting them with a gift certificate from the Sports Boosters organization.
“Next year we have a week booked in Pismo Beach in October,” Debbie said, laughing, noting that they won’t have to be tied to the football field on Friday nights anymore.
“But it’s Escalon, so we’ll still come to games,” Robert was quick to add.
Both had the same answer when asked how they came to be involved in the Sports Boosters organization.
“Deborah Hawkins,” they said, noting that she got them into the group and working.
“She’s to blame,” Robert added.
For many in Escalon, the phrase ‘she’s to thank’ would be more appropriate, as the couple has helped coordinate purchases for the snack bar, working on getting it staffed and making sure there is enough variety to satisfy the hungry crowds.
Debbie said there have been many good memories made and Robert said it is gratifying that kids have remembered them throughout the years, from first attending the games and visiting the snack bar to becoming part of the various high school teams and saying hello.
It’s also a way of giving back.
“I throw some money in the till every few weeks, just so there’s enough to give a kid a ring pop if they don’t have the money,” Debbie admitted of how she treats herself by paying it forward, loving the look on kids’ faces as they are presented with the sweet treat.
Debbie also pointed to Hillary Pearce as “being great to work with” as part of the leadership team and said Tracey Miller is also poised to step in and help carry the load.
The Leal family includes four children, the oldest, Rachel, graduated from EHS in 2009, Robbie followed in 2011, Sarah in 2016 and youngest son Frank is a senior, set to graduate in 2019.
“It’s been so much a part of everything,” Debbie noted of working with the Sports Boosters.
“Between that and Sober Grad, we’ve made some great friends through the years,” Robert said.