In this June 2021 file photo, Bangor High School's Anna Connors runs around the track in a relay event in Waterboro. Credit: Courtesy of Amanda Prouty

Anna Connors wanted to give back to a program that was important to her during her youth.

And the Bangor High School track star has done so.

The Bangor Parks and Recreation Department will have $11,000 to put towards its Kids Cave pre-school and after-school program and its summer track program courtesy of grants provided by Connors.

Connors, the state’s reigning outdoor Class A champion in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter runs and indoor titlist in the 55, 200 and 400, received a $1,000 grant from the Gatorade Play It Forward program after being named the Gatorade Maine Girls Track and Field Player of the Year.

She was one of 608 recipients of the nationwide award.

Those recipients could then enter their organization for an additional $10,000 Spotlight Grant, and she was one of the nation’s 12 winners of that grant.

Connors had to submit a short video to explain why her organization is worthy of the Spotlight Grant, and she put one together with longtime friends Julia and Olivia Bassi, along with her mother, Marsha Connors.

“The before and after school programs were very important to me,” said Connors. “Outside of the activities they offered, I met some really great people and I developed friendships with kids from elementary school who are still my friends today.

“I’ve always wanted to give back to the community, and I had this opportunity and I took advantage of it,” said Connors. “I am so grateful to have the chance to do it before I head off to college. Hard work pays off.”

“It is unbelievable what she has done for the youth in our community,” said Debbie Gendreau, the assistant director of Bangor’s Parks and Recreation Department. “We are very excited.”

Gendreau said that they currently have 120 youngsters from Bangor’s six elementary schools registered in the Kids Cave program. They come as early at 6:45 a.m. for the preschool program and can stay as late at 5:30 p.m. in the after-school program.

The Bangor Parks and Recreation Department provides a number of activities for them and kids in the after-school program also receive a snack.

“(Connors) is so special,” said Bangor track coach Al Mosca. “It’s her senior year and she is thinking about colleges right now, but she so much wanted to give back to the community.

“That’s her,” he added.

He also said it was “so neat” that she was able to team up with her lifelong friends to do the video together.

Connors said she didn’t even have to ask the Bassi sisters if they wanted to get involved, they were on board as soon as she told them about it.

“I’ve known them since kindergarten. It was really fun working with them and my mother as well,” said Connors, who is also a high honors student.  “It took us a couple of days to put it all together.”

She said the video had to be around one minute long.

Connors attended the summer track program when she was a youngster and now she works at it.

“It’s a good time,” she said of the summer program.

The 17-year-old daughter of Joseph and Marsha Connors is also an outstanding winger for the Bangor High School girls soccer team.

She has yet to decide on a college but said she will just run track there.