TURNERS FALLS — New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski created quite a buzz at Sheffield Elementary School Tuesday morning.
Consider it a situation of one good deed earning another.
Gronkowski, usually referred to as “Gronk” by fans and football commentators, visited Sheffield because the school, with help from middle and high school students, local police and firefighters and the community, raised the most money in the statewide One Mission’s Buzz Off competition. Gronkowski works with One Mission, a Massachusetts-based pediatric cancer charity that assists families with treatment-related expenses.
The school raised just shy of $17,000, and about 50 people from the schools and community shaved their heads at an event held in February at the school.
Gronkowski answered questions from students for about 30 minutes, before posing for pictures with the “Buzzies” who shaved their heads.
Gronkowski took questions about his shoe size (16), his favorite ice cream (cookies and cream), and his pregame snack (chocolate milk and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with smooth peanut butter). And when one student even asked if he knew Tom Brady, Gronkowski replied with a laugh and a “yes.”
At one point Gronkowski took a couple of sips out of a water bottle, then the students began to chant “chug!” so he finished and then spiked the bottle like a touchdown celebration.
He talked about his involvement with One Mission and how he started volunteering once he joined the Patriots.
“I just want to say how incredible it is, how you guys come together as a town, as a school and as a team,” he said. “It’s just like playing football.”
The students and staff of the school were overjoyed with the visit, which was originally meant to be a surprise for the students. The school was closed off to the public during the event, except for those members of the community who participated in the original Buzz Off.
The school originally participated in the Buzz Off as a way to give back. Sheffield student Dimitri Conway has leukemia, and his family used One Mission when he was getting frequent chemotherapy treatments in Boston.
Dimitri’s mother, Mary, wore a Gronkowski jersey Tuesday and said the whole event has been overwhelming for the family. Conway said her son was going through another round of chemo and had been feeling drained before the event.
“He’s tired of having cancer and going through the things he needs to go through,” she said.
She said the way the community has rallied around Dimitri and their family has been incredible to see.
“It’s just unbelievable what a community can do when they come together,” Conway said.
Ashley Haseotes, the founder of One Mission, was at Sheffield on Tuesday to introduce Gronkowski. She said most of the organization’s donations are small, like the bulk of ones received from Sheffield. She said it’s when all of those small amounts accumulate, like they did in Turners Falls, that it has a major impact.
“They are a little town that did something big,” she said.
Assistant Principal Christine Limoges, one of the organizers of the fundraiser, said exceeding the original goal of $10,000 and continuing to raise money has been something that brought the school and the community closer together.
“This was kind of like the icing on the cake,” she said of Gronkowski’s visit. “It was an amazing morning.”
Reach Miranda Davis