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Heritage’s Cade Gardner jumps into community service

Football lineman offers to help where needed

By Joshua Hart, Columbian sports reporter
Published: May 8, 2020, 6:32pm

When Clark County schools announced a six-week shutdown on March 13 — that later morphed into a rest-of-year closure — Heritage senior Cade Gardner’s first thoughts were with his community.

“If anybody needs help getting food or daily necessities, please DM me; I want to help,” Gardner tweeted.

This didn’t surprise anybody who knows Cade Gardner. The 6-foot-1, 250-pound football lineman is a silent leader. His desire to give back to the community, nurtured in youth football, is unrelenting.

“Cade has a big heart; that’s the bottom line,” Heritage athletic director Erik Gonzalez said. “He’s not the kid that’s the rah-rah guy, but he’s definitely an inspiration, a leader by example.”

Gardner says he has logged more than 200 hours of community service in high school. He’s helped with Relay for Life, The Water Project and organized a blanket drive. Recently, he’s offered to wash cars for members of the community.

“I just want to put a smile on their face. You helped someone, made their day easier,” Gardner said. “That’s such a cool thing. That’s what makes memories for me.”

Gardner’s community-first mentality is most apparent on the football field. He’s headed to the University of Jamestown in North Dakota to play offensive line next year but Gardner’s contributions are always bigger than talent alone.

The gridiron, after all, is what ignited his drive to help. In Clark County Youth Football, the team helped pick up trash around the field after practice.

“I didn’t really understand it at first,” Gardner explained. “But I’ll always remember that and I always think about that.”

His willing servanthood has persisted in locker rooms throughout his playing career. He’s the guy hauling equipment and picking up after other teammates.

“It’s always been from the heart for him,” Gonzalez said.

Gardner’s parents have been a motivating factor. His father is an electrical bidder and his mother is a general manager at Main Street Marijuana. He’d like to follow suit into the world of business and will pursue the degree in college.

“They get stressed out but they never give up,” Gardner said. “That’s something I’ve always paid attention to.”

He also draws inspiration from those in the community who continue to give back even when times are tough. In particular, he saw the community fully get behind the football team when Heritage was selling $25 fundraiser cards that gave discounts to various businesses in the area. The money raised went toward team meals, gear and equipment for the team.

“It really shows how generous people around the Heritage area are,” Gardner said. “When that money has real meaning to someone and they’re willing to invest in you and the team that means a lot. It really brings everybody closer.”

Columbian sports reporter