Gesture by East St. Louis team 'brought tears to my eyes'

Mar. 11—As impressive as the East St. Louis boys' basketball team was on the court, what the Flyers did after they finished playing at the IHSA state finals was just as impactful.

After picking up their third-place medals late Friday night at State Farm Center, the team went to Neil St. Blues in downtown Champaign — just as it was closing — for dinner. With most of her staff already gone, owner Gayle Starks still was happy to keep the doors open for the Flyers, but "I was dreading the late-night cleanup after a busy day," she said.

No worries. As Gayle waited in an adjoining room, coaches and players picked up after themselves: tables cleared, floor swept, chairs pushed in, not a crumb to be found. When Gayle walked around the corner, "I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It brought tears to my eyes."

It was after midnight when Gayle raced onto Neil Street to catch the team and say thanks, but the bus was turning the corner on its way back to the hotel. She posted to Facebook that "your gift to me this night was amazing! I'm on the way home for a good night's sleep."

On Saturday morning, she was still raving about the gesture.

"What good, young men," she said. "They're definitely the MVPs of my restaurant and my night."