Football players spearhead ‘gift of love’ for beloved substitute teacher

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By Rachel Madison

 A trio of football players at Liberty Hill High School took their teamwork above and beyond when they set out together to start a fundraising page for their beloved substitute teacher, Terry Cork, when they found out she was going through some tough times. 

  The players, sophomore running backs Noah Long, Ben Carter and Joe Pitchford, came together in the midst of preparing for their state championship game to help Cork, who was subbing in their AP World History class before the holidays, when she made the announcement that she could no longer work as a substitute teacher.

 “She told us she was going to have to take on a full-time job,” Long said. “She said she needed to take care of her family and she mentioned her heater was out, so we thought if we started a GoFundMe, we could maybe help her out a little bit and raise a couple hundred dollars. Ms. Terry is a very positive person, so it worried us when she brought this up because she never brings up anything like that.”

  The students immediately started a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $5,000 and started sharing it among their classmates via Snapchat. The description on the GoFundMe page for Cork said: “Hi my name is Noah and I am a student at Liberty Hill high. Mrs. Terry is a sub at our school and everyone loves her. She has to take time away from subbing to start a full time job. She has always believed in taking care of family first and currently doesn’t have the funds to do so. We were hoping to raise enough money for her to fix her heater and continue to do what she loves. Thank you [sic]” 

  Carter said within the first couple of hours after the page went live, the amount donated was over $2,000. By the end of the day, they had exceeded their goal of $5,000.

  “We didn’t really expect to get $5,000, but everybody was in the mood to donate,” Long said. “I think everybody was in the Christmas spirit.”

  By the end of the second day, the total amount raised was $13,018 through 256 donations, many of which came from students and their parents after the word got out on other social media channels like Facebook.

  “Once the page got out on Facebook, things really took off,” Long said. “Everyone started donating.”

  In addition to the donations, Austin-based heating and air company Service Wizard heard about the fundraiser via Facebook and offered to fix Cork’s heater free of charge.

  The GoFundMe was turned off at the end of the day on Tuesday, after more than $13,000 was raised, so the students could start the withdrawal process and get the money to Cork quickly.

  “She was subbing in the office last Thursday, so it worked out for us to tell her then,” Long said. “She was very emotional. She was very thankful and said she didn’t deserve it, but she definitely did.”

  Last week, the students visited Cork in her home to deliver a check with the funds raised. 

  “I am so honored and in shock still,” Cork told The Independent. “I’m probably the luckiest person in the world because I get to do what I love to do. I was caught off guard to be loved so well. I’m pretty headstrong and independent, and this was such a gift.”

  Long said Cork is a favorite among his classmates because she develops a personal connection with everyone.

  “There’s not a single person she doesn’t know,” he said. “Every Thursday that she subbed before our games, we’d always talk about football, and she’d wish me luck. She developed a personal relationship with everyone.”

  Long added that Cork, 76, also does her best to keep up with the current trends.

  “Ms. Terry tries to be as hip as possible,” he said. “She always starts her class with trending dance moves, like a Tik Tok dance.”

  Carter said because she’s been subbing him, Long, and hundreds of other classmates for the last six years—since they were in fourth grade—Cork has been a major influence on many of the students.

  “She’s always there for everyone,” he said. 

  She’s been just as influential on newcomers. Pitchford, who has only been in the school district for about a year, said he was proud to be a part of something that took off so quickly.

  “I moved here from Leander, and I’m very happy to be a part of a community where miracles like this can take place,” he said. “Liberty Hill is a very strong community.”

  Cork said she knows Long, Pitchford and Carter worked hard alongside the rest of their football team to make it to the state championship game, and while it was a tough loss for the team, she believes they are winners all the same.

  “I know they wanted to win that game, but they won so many other things so far that tell me so much more about who they are,” she said. “They are just amazing.”

  While Cork said she will still need to take a hiatus from subbing, she won’t be far. She has taken a full-time position with the special education department at Liberty Hill Middle School through the remainder of the school year.

  “I took some full-time work for the next five months because I just need the income,” she said. “Some days have been more of a struggle than others, but I just need to keep my family together the best I can. We have a few issues going on that I don’t want to bring up because I don’t want to embarrass them, but I need to take care of them.” 

  Cork said she hopes to return to substitute teaching in the future.

  “I’m going to miss her, but I know she’ll be back for us,” Carter said. 

  Cork said ultimately, it’s not about the money donated to her at all, it’s the fact that a few students thought enough of her to help her with some of life’s trials.

  “That’s not to say the money won’t help me get over some humps and get us back on our feet, because it will,” she said. “But this is about a bunch of kids who loved me back as much as I love them, and they wanted to give back some of that love. These kids are the champions of my life.”

  She added that she feels like “the grandma of the building” at LHHS, and she loves each of the students as if they were her grandchildren. 

  “I value every moment I have with them,” she said. “They are so special and unique. I try to encourage them to believe in who they are, and that they can accomplish whatever they choose to accomplish. The gift they’ve given me—there aren’t enough words in my heart to comprehend all of this. It’s such a gift of love.”

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