Alabama schools take up ‘Be the Light’ challenge, light up sports stadiums as virus cancels games


RUSSELLVILLE, Ala. (WIAT) — When the coronavirus outbreak hit the United States, it was lights out on sports for the foreseeable future. But even though there’s no baseball right now, stadium lights across the country are lighting up the sky.

This week, Alabama joined the party.

The “Be the Light” challenge tasks schools with turning on the lights at their sports stadiums for 20 minutes every night as a symbol of support for athletes — and all students — whose academic years were curtailed by COVID-19. 

“We’re a small community, so when we light up those three facilities, you’ll be able to see that light for a long way,” Haleyville City Schools Superintendent Holly Sutherland said. “We got tagged on Facebook, and of course, we thought it was a great idea.

“It’s just a good thing for our community to be reassured that we’re all in this together and there is a lot of hope at the end of this.”

Haleyville isn’t the first school in the state to take part. They received the challenge from nearby Russellville, where this time of year, baseball coach Chris Heaps is usually en route to the state championship.

“The three that I have from Russellville — we went to four — we went in ‘15, ‘16, ‘17, and ‘18,” Heaps said. “We won the first three.”

The coach saw the challenge on Facebook, and after a parent of one of his players recommended it, Heaps jumped at the chance to join. So the last two nights, at 8:20, the lights came on.

“8:20 (p.m.) in military time would be 2020,” Heaps said. “So from 8:20 to 8:40, the challenge was to turn on your field lights to let the people in the community know and the kids in the community know you’re thinking about them.”

That goal might be more important to heaps than the one he would be pursuing if the season hadn’t been canceled. 

“I’ve got a nice collection of rings, but I call those and those things behind me — I call those things dust collectors,” Heaps said. “The trophies are the players.”

Don’t expect the challenge to be limited to the northwest corner of Alabama.

When asked if she planned to challenge other schools, Sutherland said she thought that could be done.

“I think that’d be a good thing,” she said.


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