The Kelvin Clippers football players hope to honour their school with a league championship on Friday. But first, they'll honour the memory of a lost classmate.
When the Clippers kick off against the Grant Park Pirates in the Winnipeg High School Football League's 2012 Free Press Bowl at 5 p.m. at Canad Inns Stadium, each Clippers player will wear a custom-designed decal on his helmet with the initials J.R. in memory of Grade 12 Kelvin student Julia Romanow, who died in a vehicle crash on Nov. 1.
Clippers defensive back Ryan Ewashko, 17, helped design the decal, which was printed at the school's print shop. He said 60 were printed and shared with the school's male and female hockey teams as well as the football team.
"Lots of guys on our team were good friends of the people in the crash and this is just a small way that everyone can remember her and the good person she was," said Ewashko, 17, who went to Romanow's memorial service last Tuesday. He found out about Romanow's death prior to his team's semifinal game on Nov. 1.
"I feel so terrible for her family. We just wanted to find a way to pull everyone together."
Romanow and four other Kelvin students were travelling in an SUV during the lunch hour on Nov. 1 when the vehicle lost control on a sharp turn on Wellington Crescent near Assiniboine Park and hit a tree. Romanow was thrown from the vehicle. Police said speed was a factor and Romanow was likely not wearing a seatbelt.
Quarterback Kristian D'Ignazio, 17, said the helmet decals are a way to acknowledge the students' pain and show respect for Romanow's memory.
"I look around the halls and everyone at our school has been affected by this nightmare," said D'Ignazio.
"We'll be playing with heavy hearts but we still have to take care of business. She was a great girl and she'll be there with us."
Clippers head coach Jon Romu said the team is donating the gate receipts from the semifinal game to the newly established Julia Romanow-Bear (Sewinikan Buffalo-Bear) Scholarship at the University of Winnipeg for registered students of indigenous ancestry.
"I'm proud of our guys. The biggest thing is they just wanted to do something. When you have a loss, it can be part of the healing process to do something," said Romu.
He said the team also donated the gate receipts from their quarter-final game against the West Kildonan Wolverines to the family of Wolverines head coach Neville Scarlett, who is waiting for a heart transplant. Romu and Scarlett were teammates on the University of Manitoba Bisons football team.
"The last two playoff games weren't about football for us. They were about trying to help other people," said Romu.
"I've been a football coach for 10 years now. We're teaching these guys football but some day they're all going to be husbands, fathers, role models. If we can help them be leaders in society and good citizens, then we've really done something."
Donations to the Romanow-Bear scholarship can be made c/o The University of Winnipeg Foundation, 901-491 Portage Ave., Winnipeg, Man., R3B 2E4.