Student athletes around the region will be swapping their caps next week for a different set of colors — military pride.
Schools all over New Hampshire will participate in Operation Hat Trick, a week-long event that starts Monday.
The effort started at the University of New Hampshire in 2007. It raises money for veteran recovery programs by sports teams donning camouflage hats in lieu of their usual ones.
Sixty-three high schools statewide will change hats as part of the effort’s first high school initiative, which has raised close to $70,000.
The high school initiative was first pitched at an athletic directors’ meeting in October by Steve Mello, Concord High School athletic director.
“It didn’t take long for all of us to feel like this is something we should all be behind,” said Angelo Fantasia, Timberlane Regional High School athletic director. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing that week. Our teams will be in our camo hats.”
Statewide, about 9,000 camo hats sporting school logos have been ordered by the 63 schools, Mello said.
Locally, that includes Londonderry, Salem, Windham, Pinkerton, Sanborn and Timberlane.
“It’s good for our kids to see everybody striving for something, to do something for others,” Fantasia said. “There’s a time when you can take a learning opportunity and use athletics to get that point across.”
For many students, the point is already clear.
“This will help the students in our school recognize that and give them more sense of how big this is,” said Meghan Dolan, 18, Sanborn varsity softball captain. “We’re distributing the rest of the hats next week, but me and the baseball captain, we’re already wearing them.”
Sanborn varsity baseball captain Jackson Morton, 18, said the effort is very important to those on the diamond.
“Veterans come back after sacrificing a lot and some of them, unfortunately, come back with injuries,” he said. “A lot of people on our team understand what these guys do for us. Everyone who’s an American knows we have to support our troops.”