The Christmas spirit has taken a turn spreading across Montana this year, reaching across the state to bring a special gift to two children.
“We bought authentic jerseys, real game jerseys," said Jace Schillinger, who spent the past two seasons coaching football at the University of North Dakota. "We're going to have them signed, and we're going to raffle them off.”
Schillenger and his siblings purchased the NFL jerseys of all seven Montanans playing in the league, including Havre’s Marc Mariani, for “Jerseys for a Cause.”
The raffle will benefit the families of two Missoula-area children fighting cancer at an enormous cost.
The 14-year-old Hennes' younger brother was a student of Brandy Greff, Jace's sister, when she taught third grade in Stevensville last year.
Hyde — well, 2-year-old "Cashy" — is all over Facebook.
Tara Hofeldt is a family friend in Chinook who joined this effort after Cashy’s family created the “I Bet we Can Find 10000 People That Will Pray For Cashy Michael Hyde” Facebook page. The page now has more than 14,000 followers.
Hofeldt is selling raffle tickets on the Hi-Line. She can be reached at 357-3596 and is able to deliver raffle tickets to Havre.
She feels Mariani’s contribution is particularly appreciated around here.
“We thought it was so great that Marc was willing to help out,” Hofeldt said. “The Hyde’s are a big Grizzly family, so to have these guys step up and do this is amazing.”
The Hyde/Griz connection is felt across the state, in Missoula, as well.
"The connection there is Cash's family is like the ultimate Griz family," said Jace. "We're hoping that this kind of takes off, and we're able to raise some money for those families."
The concept took shape before Jace came out for UND's football game against the Griz.
"My sister and I, and my brother, talked a couple months ago," he said. "We're all getting to that point where gifts aren't that important. We thought instead of spending money on each other, we'd direct it toward a couple families in Montana."
Then they ran it past their dad, Jim, a former Griz running back now working the family farm between Circle and Wolf Point.
"Any time Dad thinks something is a good idea, we usually roll with it," Jace said, laughing. "He's a little bit pessimistic sometimes."
An argument could be made that this was about Griz Family — Griz Nation — but for the presence of Montana State product Dane Fletcher. But Fletcher, who wears No. 52 for New England, is family in another way.
He was coached at Bozeman High by Bill Walker, who happens to be Brandy and Jace's uncle.
"I have a lot of Bobcat friends who I figured might not want a Griz jersey," noted Greff, an MSU graduate. "But it seems like everybody in Montana has a lot of pride in their football programs, and just want to do whatever they can."
The other six Montanans on current NFL rosters are Grizzlies, including Jace's brother Shann. The Baker product wears No. 39 for Atlanta.
Schillinger's teammate, Kroy Biermann from Hardin, wears No. 71. Colt Anderson of Butte wears No. 30 for Philadelphia; Marc Mariani, Havre Blue Pony and a Griz, has No. 83 for Tennessee. Two Miami Dolphins fill out the roster: No. 5 is Dan Carpenter out of Helena; No. 26 is Lex Hilliard out of Kalispell.
Tickets are $10 for one, $50 for six and $100 for 13. Entries can be sent to Greff at P.O. Box 17922 in Missoula, 59808, including name, phone number and the preferred jersey.
The drawings will be Feb. 6, the day of Super Bowl XLV, and it's possible at least one of those numbers will be seen in Cowboys Stadium.
Miami is in the playoff hunt and the Patriots, Eagles and Falcons lead their divisions.
"We hope to be somewhere," said Greff, "on Super Bowl Sunday."