Villagers’ spirit pays tribute to Machado

VHS football captains Jackson Park (76), Mac Harris (2), Cody Doby (52) and Bryce Mellado (5) bring Joseph Machado’s jersey to the pregame coin toss for the Buffalo’s home opener at The H.G. Morse Range.

It’s a soon-to-be pregame tradition that nobody wishes even had to exist. But it’s one that will start tonight through a whole lot of love and community support. Beginning today, Culver’s on Wedgewood Lane in The Villages will donate a portion of its proceeds on certain nights to the Buffalo Scholarship Foundation, to be put toward the Joseph Anthony Machado Memorial Scholarship. The endeavor known as “Share Nights,” will be held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. before each Friday night home game for The Villages High School football team — debuting tonight even though the Buffalo’s scheduled contest against

Crescent City was canceled due to Hurricane Dorian. Machado, a 2019 VHS graduate and former linebacker on the Buffalo football team, was one of two 18-year-olds killed in a single-car crash on May 31 in Lake County.

“I’m so excited for this,” said Tayla Machado, Joseph’s older sister and a Class of 2017 graduate at VHS. “I know ‘excited’ might be a weird word, but it’s so true. We’re excited to do this with Culver’s, and really just excited to make sure Joe’s name and legacy continues on forever.”

In conjunction with the Buffalo Scholarship Foundation, the Joseph Anthony Machado Memorial Scholarship Fund will award two $1,000 scholarships annually to two VHS seniors — one football player and one student who showcases cultural responsiveness.

“This (scholarship) is something that we know Joe would want,” said Dawn Machado, Joe’s mother, when the memorial scholarship fund was founded back in June. “The outpouring of support we’ve received from the school and the community has been overwhelming. So this will be one way we can give back, by creating a scholarship in his memory for other kids to use in the future.”

The partnership between the Machado family and Culver’s — which plans to donate 10% of its profits over the three-hour period each event night — began with a phone call that was met with resounding agreement from the establishment.

“Our franchisees are involved in the communities where their restaurants are located, and they strive to make meaningful differences in the lives of others,” said Paul Pitas, director of public relations and communications for Culver’s. “From sponsorships to donations to schools, community organizations and others in need, our franchisees are always looking for ways to give local and support those who have supported us.”

VHS athletic director and head football coach Richard Pettus said he hopes a visit to Culver’s to support the scholarship endeavor becomes a can’t-miss tradition for fans before each Buffalo home game on Friday nights.

“Honoring a special individual such as Joseph Machado speaks volumes of the support Culver’s has shown since the accident,” Pettus said. “It’s our honor, but also our duty to never let his spirit fade.”

On the football field, the Buffalo have dedicated their entire 2019 season in the memory of Machado, who led the team in tackles a year ago.

“He played the game with such great passion, and that is something we ask our players to do every day — even in practice,” said Pettus. “Play every down as though it’s your last, because no one is guaranteed a tomorrow.”

Along with the donations from Culver’s, the Machado family will be selling memorial T-shirts for $12 each during “Share Night” events at Culver’s to benefit the scholarship fund.

With more than $500 from The Villages Buffalo Booster Club and other donations coming in throughout the community, the Machado family said they’re overwhelmed by the support they’ve already received.

“We’re just really blessed and extremely thankful,” Tayla Machado said. “It’s not surprising when you think about The Villages, but we also didn’t really expect just how many people have already come forward. I’m in awe by the people who didn’t know Joe or our family personally, but they still want to help.”

That outpouring of support is reminiscent of what took place after another tragedy struck the VHS athletics community.

In October 2017, Anderson Mogollon, a then-13-year-old baseball player in The Villages Charter School system, broke two vertebrae in his neck and suffered a collapsed lung after a diving accident. In the days and weeks that followed, residents of Florida’s Friendliest Hometown donated more than $4,000 — including a similar night via Chick-Fil-A in The Villages — to assist the family with medical bills.

Brady Bogart, who coached Machado on the football field and Anderson’s older brother, Alberson, on the baseball diamond, said the outreach efforts are firmly entrenched within the DNA of The Villages.

“It doesn’t surprise me because that’s this community — that’s who these people are,” Bogart said. “See a need, fill a need, and nobody does that better than The Villages.”

Staff Writer Cody Hills can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5286, or cody.hills@thevillagesmedia.com.