The tradition-rich Ardmore football rivalry against Ada has added significance this season.
The Mercy Health Foundation at Mercy Hospital Ardmore has organized two days of events leading up to kickoff on Sept. 5.
Both Ada and Ardmore are home to Mercy hospitals, and staff from each location hope to fan the flames of what is a fierce rivalry. The foundation plans to make the festivities an annual tradition.
“There are three reasons why we’re doing this,” Executive Director Andre´ Moore says. “First is because of the two hospitals. Prior to the game, on Sept. 4, the Ardmore team will have a team meal and a tour for the student-athletes.”
The tour will cover several key areas of the facility in hopes of sparking the students’ interest in the medical field.
“We want to give them some exposure to what goes on in the hospital,” Moore says.
The team will eat dinner at the hospital after the tour, and Moore hopes to show the Tigers a film from a past game in the rivalry.
“We want it to be interesting for them from an educational perspective,” he says.
On game day, the staff from both hospitals will get together for a tailgate event at Ardmore’s cafeteria a few hours before kickoff. Ardmore’s cheerleaders and drumline will entertain the staff.
Once the teams are ready to hit the field, Sister Caroline Stoutz will conduct the pregame coin flip.
“She’s really excited about that,” Moore admits. “She’s actually been practicing the coin toss, believe it or not. She said she’s done a lot of things in her life over the years as a sister, but she’s never been to a football game to do the coin toss. In her life, this might be her second or third time attending a football game. She’s really excited about that.”
The foundation hopes the added events will bring awareness in the community to the groups’ accomplishments in providing quality healthcare in both cities.
“We want people to know that Mercy is part of the community,” Moore explains. “We know the community has always been supportive of the hospital with the building of the new patient center, cancer center and other things the community does. We want to reciprocate and give back to the community.”
The Mercy Health Foundation is the fundraising arm of the hospital system for its equipment needs through grants and donations.
“For example, the foundation raised $22 million for the patient tower,” Moore notes. “That was a $63 million project, but the foundation was responsible for raising $22 million of that. Also, recently the foundation was responsible for the equipment at the new cancer center, a $5.2 million project. The most recent project in that category of cost was the da Vinci surgical robot. That was a $3.1 million project. The foundation has raised a lot of money for different things for the community.”
Mercy Hospital Ardmore hopes to meet the needs of area patients and keep them from having to travel to Dallas or Oklahoma City.
“We have some of the top physicians and medical equipment between Oklahoma City and Dallas, for sure,” Moore says. “Accessibility is important. A person doesn’t have to leave town to travel to get to therapy or treatment. The cancer center, for example, was so impressive that it attracted two medical oncologists. To have two in Ardmore is really a great thing.”
Ada’s hospital has the same level of care, and serviced Ardmore patients before the cancer center was built.
The Ada hospital was acquired by Mercy in the past year, and the new affiliation opened the door for the planned festivities surrounding the opening game of the season.
In Class 4A, Ada is ranked as high as No. 3 by some, and Ardmore is considered a top 15 team in Class 5A.
The game is always competitive, and the teams have met to open the season every year since 1986. The history between the schools spans many decades.
“The Ada game has been a rivalry for Ardmore since the beginning of time,” Moore says. “It goes way back.”
Mercy had shirts printed with the helmets of both teams styled after the Sugar Bowl shirts from Oklahoma’s win over Alabama earlier this year.
The shirts are $15 and can be found at several locations, including the hospital gift shop, The Rage in Ardmore and at Ardmore High School.
Fans interested in purchasing shirts can call the foundation at (580) 220-6712 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.