Saints LB Michael Mauti presents $10k grant in Garyville

Published 12:08 am Saturday, October 29, 2016

GARYVILLE — Deborah Perkins could not contain her joy Tuesday morning.

All decked out in her favorite black and gold boots, the longtime physical education teacher at Garyville-Mt. Airy Math and Science Magnet School was about to see her dream come true.

AT LEFT: Garyville-Mt. Airy Play 60 director Deborah Perkins, far left, welcomes Saints mascot Gumbo, superfan Jarrius ‘JJ’ Robertson, bottom,  and linebacker Michael Mauti.

Garyville-Mt. Airy Play 60 director Deborah Perkins, far left, welcomes Saints mascot Gumbo, superfan Jarrius ‘JJ’ Robertson,bottom, and linebacker Michael Mauti.

With the whole student body — also decked out in their best black and gold — filling the cafeteria with energy and excitement, Perkins awaited the group of special visitors to her school.

Soon, the cafeteria erupted as Gumbo, the larger-than-life Saints mascot, barreled down the aisle, closely followed by Saints linebacker Michael Mauti and superfan Jarrius “JJ” Robertson, who lives just up the road.

They all were there to make Perkins’ dream come true, by delivering — in person —  the Saints $10,000 Hometown Grant in conjunction with the NFL’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program and the Southeast United Dairy Industry Association.

Garyville-Mt. Airy won the grant thanks to the continuing efforts of Perkins, who heads the Fuel Up to Play 60 program at the school and has been applying for grants for years.

“A lot of times schools are underfunded, especially when it comes to things that are going to improve their health, both with physical education and nutrition,” said SUDIA representative Jen Duhon.

“Garyville Magnet was chosen because they have shown excellent leadership in Fuel Up to Play 60 with their program advisor and they have pledged to be healthier by exercising daily and eating nutritious foods.”

This is the first such grant awarded to a school in St. John the Baptist Parish.

“I’m relieved more than anything,” Perkins said. “I can’t believe it’s happening.”

The NFL’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program is designed to help tackle childhood obesity by getting children active and teaching them to make healthy food choices.

Perkins said it is especially difficult in Garyville, which lacks a full-sized grocery store.

“We’re in a food desert here,” she said.

At Garyville-Mt. Airy, students can participate in various programs and earn points for their commitment to exercise and healthy eating.

Students can cash in those points for perks and prizes supplied by the national program.

Later this month, students Carlo Travis and Demetrick Leboeuf will attend a Saints game and be recognized on the field as State Program Ambassadors.

Perkins said she hopes to use the grant money to buy more sports equipment for the students, including tetherball sets, kickballs and cabbageball equipment.

She would love to buy some bicycles and start a bicycle club.

She also hopes to acquire more healthy food choices for the school.

She would love a salad bar, she said, or perhaps vending machines with fresh, healthy options.

Tuesday was all about celebrating the win, though.

After a school dance squad performed for the guests, a panel of students asked Mauti a series of questions. Sixth grader Asia Scioneaux asked him what were some of the hardest lessons he had learned as a professional player while another asked for a hug.

Mauti, who is from Mandeville and claimed to have been to Garyville before, soaked it all up.

“The energy in this school is amazing,” Mauti said. “For me, being from a rural area like this, I just love the feeling you get from the local people. It just brings it so much closer to heart. I love seeing the smiles on these kids’ faces.”

No smile was bigger than the one on Perkins, who was lauded for her extraordinary efforts and rewarded with an oversized check in the amount of $10,000.

“It surpassed my expectations,” Perkins said of Tuesday’s celebration. “They were so awesome. I am so glad for the children and our parish.”

Don’t expect Perkins to rest on her laurels, either.

“We’re going to keep on going,” she said.

“There’s a $30,000 grant out there.”