New nonprofit aims to provide top-notch nutrition to athletes
— Created August 19, 2020 by Kacie Jo Voeller
By Kacie Jo Voeller
It all started with sandwiches — enough to feed the entire football team after pre-season practice, when Colby Heefner got the idea to start the Whidbey AthlEATS Foundation.
Heefner, Oak Harbor High School’s strength and conditioning coach, said he was inspired by the school’s football coach after being asked to make sandwiches for the team. Heefner decided he wanted to create a nonprofit to provide readily available, quality nutrition sources for all the athletes he worked with in the weight room, from baseball to football players.
“The main thing that we wanted to do was just level the playing field nutritionally for the athletes,” he said.
Heefner said creating a dependable source of nutrition and fostering a sense of belonging for all athletes were key factors in creating the Whidbey AthlEATS Foundation, which has been in operation for just under a month. Heefner said with the impacts of COVID-19 and a constantly changing landscape for student-athletes, he wanted to create an organization focused on consistency and reliability.
“The weight room is going to be there for them (the athletes) and the food is going to be there for them,” he said. “That is really the main point. What I want to do with this foundation is just create that certainty and security so they know that I am going to be there for them, and the foundation and the program is going to be there for them in case they need food or any kind of support.”
Heefner said COVID-19 has impacted the new organization in other ways with safety considerations being kept in mind.
“With the food preparation, it has been a lot more pre-packaged foods that we have had to use instead of homemade or anything like that,” he said. “We have been doing a lot of pre-packaged food or things we have made in-house with the cafeteria at the school.”
Heefner said the organization has also started a contract with Gatorade to keep protein bars and shakes available and one of the main objectives is to also have quality food accessible to athletes multiple days a week.
“The goal is to have the ability to keep [the bars and protein shakes] stocked up full for the athletes and provide a meal, or at least a sandwich, five days a week for them,” he said.
In the future, Heefner said he hopes to see the program grow beyond the high school and provide support to other schools throughout the Oak Harbor community.
“If we keep growing like I hope we will, then maybe we can provide to other schools within Oak Harbor,” he said. “Maybe at the middle school we can get a little bit of food for the athletes.”
Heefner said although many factors go into athlete performance, nutrition is an important piece of the puzzle to help high school athletes reach their goals.
“How my background (as a strength coach) has helped is I basically live in the weight room and I see athletes every day,” he said. “And I know the importance of nutrition because I see these athletes who are getting good food or quality food, they progress faster, they get bigger, they get stronger.”
Heefner said he will be assisted in running the program by two Oak Harbor High School graduates, Dorian Hardin (2018) and Taeson Hardin (2017). The brothers have gone on to become football players at the College of Idaho and will continue to serve as directors for the foundation remotely when they return to school, Heefner shared. Dorian Hardin said nutrition is one of the key parts of any athlete’s regimen.
“Having experienced what it’s like at the next level, I know that it’s important for kids to continue to eat healthily, maintain their body, and build their strength,” Dorian said. “This is a pivotal time in their development, as they are always growing at this period in life.”
Taeson Hardin said the combination of hard work and proper nutrition could help athletes become their best.
“Since being at home, I’ve gained a solid 15 pounds of muscle while working with Colby,” he said. “I just want the younger kids to see that hard work and making sure you’re fed right through this nonprofit organization will set our athletes up for success.”
Those interested in contributing to the Whidbey AthlEATS Foundation can email firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about the nonprofit can be found at whidbeyathleats.org.