In June 2008, Eddie and Chris Canales attended the South Padre Athletic Training Seminar as exhibitors to help educate athletic trainers about their organization. After the seminar, a group of valley athletic trainers pitched an idea to collect donations at area high school football playoff games and, "fill a helmet", with the donations. This would give athletic trainers the opportunity to educate the community about this amazing organization and raise funds for assistance at the same time. The Valley Athletic Trainers Association Board of Directors agreed to support the idea and the Fill the Helmet Drive was born.
It has always been our goal to take a pro-active approach to helping athletes who sustain catastrophic spinal cord injuries, and the drive is a complete group effort. Following the lead of the Fill the Helmet Drive Committee, athletic trainers from across the Valley help to organize the event; ordering shirts for volunteers, getting approval from athletic directors, publicizing the event on radio and television, and organizing student athletic trainers as volunteers.
Valley athletic trainers and their student athletic trainers attend high school playoff games throughout the Rio Grande Valley each year asking fans to "Fill the Helmet" with their donations. Volunteers are visible before the game, during the first half, and during halftime, in and around the stands, collecting donations. With the support of valley high school football fans and communities, these volunteers raise between $5000 and $6000 every year. Students and staff at individual schools have organized raffles, kept a donation jar in their training room, and held drives during their homecoming parades and other school events to raise extra funds for the FTH Drive.
In the 6 years since it was started, VATA's Fill the Helmet Drive has raised more than $40,000 dollars to benefit the work of the Gridiron Heroes Spinal Cord Injury Foundation. The FTH Committee looks forward to continue supporting this great organization.