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      Football rivalry brings support for military service members

      Hundreds of area service men and women will receive a care package from home thanks to last weekend's Patriot Game during the Central/West highschool football rivalry.

      While some shirts are still being sold, organizers say the sale of the nearly 4,000 t-shirts resulted in nearly $9,000 donated to Operation American Soldier.

      The non-profit organization collects donations and ships them off to active-duty service men and women from northern Michigan. Before the game the group was concerned whether or not they would have enough money for postage for the packages.

      "I was blown away by the results," says Operation American Soldier director, Christine Stalsonburg. "I thought if we were able to collect a couple thousand dollars this would be a huge success. Then I saw how this community came together in such a short period of time. We saw so many shirts around town. People showed how much they appreciate the sacrifice made by our service people and their families."

      The Patriot Game was folded into the annual Central and West high school rivalry as a way to show players and students that generations have long struggled to support the freedom we often take for granted.

      The game started with a tribute to veterans and to 13 northern Michigan men who were killed during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      A few shirts are still available in selected sizes and will be sold during the Central football homecoming game this Saturday.

      Organizers say they hope to make the Patriot Game an annual event with money raised helping veteran organizations and to construct a memorial that they hope will be placed at Thirlby Field.

      All four new Traverse City car auto dealership groups helped to offset some of the cost of the shirts-Bill Marsh Auto, Fox Motors, Williams Auto and Traverse Motors/Cherry Capital Cadillac all helped to contribute to the event.