Sunnyside High School’s student-athletes are setting sports and district rivalries aside to organize a fundraiser that will help support Pueblo Magnet High School.

Vandals have struck Pueblo multiple times since October, resulting in over $1 million in damages. The destruction to the school’s main gymnasium is so extensive that the sports teams cannot practice there or host home games.

Lack of home games for the TUSD school means lack of fundraising opportunities, and unplanned costs of extra transportation, meals and gym rentals when it’s forced to head off campus, 3500 S. 12th Ave.

Sunnyside volleyball coach Sonny Felix said that some of the seniors on his team came to him and said they couldn’t imagine having to play every game on the road and not have a home gym. So, Felix came up with the idea to sell special shirts and donate the proceeds to Pueblo’s boys volleyball team.

The shirts, which have a special “#unity” design, cost $12 each or two for $20, and $7 from each sale will be donated to Pueblo.

Felix’s Facebook post about the shirts sparked a dozen orders in less than 48 hours.

“It doesn’t matter that we come from different districts; we share the same community and we should be helping each other,” said senior Arianna Felix, team manager for the Sunnyside boys volleyball team.

Coach Felix said the Pueblo coach reached out almost immediately to express gratitude. He also asked for the order form so he could pass it around TUSD.

“We are incredibly thankful for Sunnyside and their understanding of community, the idea that we’re a community of one and we share a lot of the same issues and a lot of the same incredible members,” said Pueblo Principal Augustine Romero. “It was a true community effort.”

The two south-side schools met for a volleyball match at Sunnyside on Wednesday evening and presented the shirts. Members of each team wore a special version.

“They’re kind of surprised we’re actually doing this for them,” said Sunnyside volleyball co-captain Adam Valenzuela. “I think it’s probably a good warm feeling that they know they’re not alone in this.”

The team’s fundraising goal is $500, and each player from Sunnyside received order forms to pass around.

Valenzuela, a senior, said his order form is full with people from his mom’s work. Another volleyball player, senior Rene Gonzales, said family members that are Pueblo alumni have expressed appreciation.

“We came together so easily,” Gonzales said. “Seeing after what happened to Pueblo, that they might not even have a team after that — the way we’re helping them, it kind of feels like to me that we’re allowing that family to stay together.”

TUSD estimates that repairs to the Pueblo gym floor will be completed mid-March.

Leah Merrall is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at starapprentice@tucson.com