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Youths drop summer activities for sandbags

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Winfield sandbagging halted, with National Guard efforts nearly complete
  • Football team skips weight training, travels 25 miles to help Winfield, Missouri
  • Volunteers trying to bolster at-risk levees
  • Teenage girl glad to help locally after annual house-building trip canceled
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By Jason Hanna
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WINFIELD, Missouri (CNN) -- Players on Francis Howell Central High School's football team thought they would be doing their strength training in a weight room this week.

April Dzubic, right, facing forward, of St. Louis, Missouri, passes a sandbag in Winfield on Friday.

Teens from miles around came to Winfield, Missouri, to help the community strengthen its levee Friday.

But when team members learned that the community of Winfield -- 25 miles to the northwest -- needed help battling a swollen Mississippi River, they had no trouble choosing a different sort of workout.

About 30 members of the team from the St. Charles, Missouri, area were among the hundreds of people filling and moving sandbags Thursday and Friday to bolster levees preventing the river from overcoming Winfield.

"We were going to be working out anyway," said Devon Doll, a 17-year-old who plays cornerback for FHC. "We just wanted to come out and help."

Parts of Winfield flooded this week because of failed levees, but authorities, locals and volunteers from elsewhere were working to reinforce levees that still were working.

The National Weather Service said the Mississippi River at nearby St. Louis was cresting Friday and was expected to begin slowly receding Saturday.

The football players weren't the only teens giving up their summertime activities to help the community. Video Watch volunteers fill sandbags »

Erin Andres, a 17-year-old from O'Fallon, Missouri, normally takes summer trips to Florida to help build houses with Habitat for Humanity. This year, however, she couldn't go, but she was more than happy to find she could be helpful closer to home.

Erin and her younger sister went to Winfield with a few people from their church Friday morning. They helped fill sandbags and carry them to those who would transport them to the levee.

Her house in O'Fallon, 15 miles south of Winfield, isn't threatened by the flooding, but she decided to help the Winfield effort because she wanted to "help people that need the help."

"Anyone who can help, should -- even if you're not strong," she said. "If my 8-year-old sister is out here helping, anyone can help. It's a good experience."

Erin said that if she wasn't helping, she would have been hanging out with friends, something she was glad to put aside temporarily. The work also had a bit of benefit for her, she said.

"It takes care of my workout for the day," she said.

The football team helped from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. CT Thursday and expected to help during the same hours Friday. Lincoln County authorities said that by about 2 p.m. Friday, sandbagging was suspended, with the Army National Guard having nearly completed its efforts to fortify the levees.


The coach of the football team had given the players a choice between working out as scheduled or helping with the sandbagging. Those who obtained parental permission went to Winfield.

"It's kind of fun because we're working with our teammates, and everyone's happy because we're working for a good cause," Devon said.

CNN's Katherine Wojtecki contributed to this report.

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