By Phil Perry
For Civitas Media
VAN, W.Va. – Former Van High School standout athlete and current West Virginia University football defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, through the Gibson Family Fund via the Boone County Community Foundation, issued about $25,000 in gift cards to 52 local families in need on Thursday night at Van High School in what Gibson says will be an annual event.
“I want to build on this and keep giving back,” Gibson said after the ceremony. “Whether it is Mingo, Logan or wherever the need may be. I just want to help people, especially here in West Virginia.”
Gibson was humbled by the level of charitable donations supporting his efforts.
“It’s been a deal that we had guys from out of state – like Houston, Texas who had ties to West Virginia that understand how it got down here when these coal mines shut down,” said Gibson. “Just for so many people not to hesitate and want to help out. It wasn’t like I was asking them for $100. They were contributing $5,000 and not hesitating.”
With over $38,000 raised, Gibson said that the fund will be replenished with goals of doing more in the future.
A small crowd was on hand as Van High School’s principal Shane Griffith introduced Gibson, who was emotional as he addressed the community where he once called home. Gibson spoke about all of the volunteers who made the night possible.
Through a meticulous selection process, families in need were identified through referrals among other methods. Each distributed packet included a turkey with a Walmart gift card valued at $225 (clothing and toys) and a Shoppers Value gift card for $150 in groceries.
Recipients were encouraged to put their children first when making any purchases with the gift cards.
“Everything Tony did was with his heart,” said Griffith to attendees. “I’ve always respected that about him and much of his success has come because of that.”
Gibson engaged the help of local community leaders like his brother and Boone County Board of Education vice president Chuck Gibson and Boone Memorial Hospital fundraising director, Denver Allen.
Gibson’s love for Boone County doesn’t stop with the efforts made on Thursday —-in July he presented Boone Memorial Hospital with a check for $25,000 to assist with the new facility, which celebrated a ribbon cutting ceremony on Dec. 9.
Gibson, who along with his family took a flight from Morgantown after a 4 p.m. football practice to attend, agreed that there is something about Boone County people that makes them strive to help when there is a need.
“It’s a special place,” he said. “My work ethic and growing up around these people made me the man I am today and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”