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MAYVILLE — Christmas traditions are treasured by many this time of year, and at Mayville High School, one more has gained affection.

It’s the annual Shop with a Football Player day, where Mayville football players go Christmas shopping with the school’s special needs students then help them wrap their presents during a pizza party afterward.

And the smiles say it all.

“A lot — a lot of fun,” said Ashley Hanna, one of the students who was shopping for her mom, dad and three siblings during Thursday morning’s happenings.

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Evan Marx, Ashley Hanna

Mayville High School student Ashley Hanna (right) puts tape on a Christmas present as football player Evan Marx gives her a hand.

It’s an event put on by the Mayville Kickoff Club, which is the football program’s booster entity.

But the lifeblood of the event is the Shopko Foundation, which through a grant provides money — this year the amount was $750 — to pay for the gifts, wrapping paper and other necessary supplies.

Shopping took place at Shopko Hometown and the pizza party that followed was held at the school.

And it was a roaring success once again, but not just in terms of getting the students ready for Christmas.

“Seeing the special needs kids smile and fit in and have these different conversations (of), ‘What kind of pizza do you like?’ or ‘What do you want for Christmas?’ — that’s really cool,” Kickoff Club president Jim Weiglein said of his favorite part of the day.

Shop with a Football Player has become such a heart-warming event among the football players, staff and other adults who take part that they all look forward to this day well ahead of time.

“I just love it. It’s a highlight of our Christmas time with the kids, and it’s nice for them to be able to give something to their families,” said Mary Jo Koepsell, one of two teacher’s aides in Troy Rosedahl’s class that took part in this year’s event. “And the football team and Shopko — we can’t thank them enough for everything they do to help out.”

“This is my third year doing it and I look forward to it every year,” said Jackson Mittelstadt, a senior on this past fall’s team. “I mean, who doesn’t love Christmas shopping, and especially with these kids? They’re learning just like us, and we see them throughout the day, smiling.

“(This event) means a lot to both them and us.”

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Jackson Mittelstadt, Cody Manthey

Mayville football player Jackson Mittelstadt (left) helps Mayville High School student Cody Manthey wrap a Christmas present after they shopped Thursday morning at Shopko Hometown in Mayville.

The other football players to participate in addition to Mittelstadt were Wes Weiglein, Marshall Weiglein, Trent Zimmer, Joe Klein and Evan Marx. Substitute teacher Angie Hiebl and student Laurel Liska were there to lend a hand as well.

Getting help with shopping were Hanna, Ashley Steldt, Kelsey Renderman, Kyle Klein, Cody Manthey and Jamie Crass.

Mittelstadt said, “They’re a big part of this school and a big part of the character around here. We’re happy to have them and it’s awesome to help them out with their Christmas presents.”

Follow Dan on Twitter @Danny_Larson_8 or contact him at 920-356-6753.