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WAGNER: Local restaurants have given us so much. We devised a challenge to help give back to them.
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WAGNER: Local restaurants have given us so much. We devised a challenge to help give back to them.

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I didn't see much of a point to buy groceries in early March. My plan wasn't to be here. I planned to be in Indianapolis then on a plane following the Illinois men's basketball team in the NCAA Tournament.

What was the use in buying groceries to watch them go bad? Instead, for a week or so leading up to the day I planned to go to Indy, I hit local eateries in Decatur. So many options, so little time. Herald & Review sports editor Justin Conn can attest to the mounting piles of takeout containers in my garbage can at the end of each day.

We've all been there. Busy day at work? Order ahead somewhere or stop by for a dinner instead of cooking. These local places have given us so much, everyday. Food. Drinks. Laughs. Now they're hurting. Everyone is. In so many ways. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down. Yes, a good amount of these restaurants are open for takeout and curbside pickup, but it's certainly not the same on their bottom line or for their employees who rely on tips.

Last week, WSOY's Aric Lee sent a group chat to myself, Justin and athletic trainer Dustin Fink. The crux of it was that we all miss sports, dearly, and wanted to create some sort of draft to give us something to argue about. That quickly evolved and morphed into an idea that's better: Let's draft our favorite local foods.

Aric took it from there. He assembled an all-star class of drafters: himself, WAND's Gordon Voit and Mark Pearson, Millikin women's basketball coach Olivia Lett, Millikin professor Travis Wilcoxen, Maroa-Forsyth football coach Josh Jostes, Central A&M principal Charlie Brown, Eisenhower baseball coach Kevin Hale, Dustin, myself, Justin and Tim Cain from the Herald & Review.

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"The best thing we can do right now is make the most of the situation," Pearson said. "This draft will not only be fun, but it will also bring business to local companies. Stay safe, everyone!"

That's 12 of us and we all drafted 10 items. Here's how it worked: We each picked an item from a local restaurant until we have a team of 10 different items. No repeats or specifics. For example, a pizza from a restaurant is a pizza from a restaurant, toppings don't matter. Over the next few weeks, we'll go to those businesses and get our food item, upload it to social media and get our points for picking it up while giving our business. The first one to complete their team wins.

But we're not so much interested in ourselves winning — but there are braggin’ rights — as we are to get you involved. We're more the time clock on the game than the contestants. Our teams will be attached at the end of the draft, and we'll post a video of the draft if you want to follow the order of the picks. If you go to any local restaurants, pick a food item and upload a picture to Facebook or Twitter and tag Aric Lee (@ESPN_Aric on Twitter) with the hashtag #DecaturFoodDraft. You get a point for going. Anyone can play, and Aric has taken the task of keeping score.

By May 31 or whenever a person in the original 12 gets all 10 of their items, we'll end the challenge. Whoever has the most points in the community wins a gift card to your local restaurant of choice.

Times are hard, we get that. Not everyone is able to participate, which is fine. If you are able, consider giving back to the places that have given us so much and will continue to give us so much.

Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25

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