From boys to ‘good-hearted men’

Basketball coaches emphasize importance of community service to student athletes

Mary+Rowlette%2C+96-years-old%2C+talks+to+Red+Oak+Middle+School+basketball+players+Kade+Williams%2C+left%2C+and+Benny+Yuhanna%2C+center%2C+while+Raymond+Gay%2C+second+from+right%2C+and+Kace+Williams+chat+during+the+team%E2%80%99s+community+service+visit+to+Red+Oak+Health+%26+Rehabilitation+Center+on+Saturday%2C+Jan.+6.+The+boys+visit+the+center+once+a+month+as+part+of+a+community+service+project+started+by+the+team%E2%80%99s+head+coach+Christopher+Walker.+

Nick Ware

Mary Rowlette, 96-years-old, talks to Red Oak Middle School basketball players Kade Williams, left, and Benny Yuhanna, center, while Raymond Gay, second from right, and Kace Williams chat during the team’s community service visit to Red Oak Health & Rehabilitation Center on Saturday, Jan. 6. The boys visit the center once a month as part of a community service project started by the team’s head coach Christopher Walker.

When Mary Rowlette, a 96-year-old woman with snow-white hair came up to 8th grader Benny Yuhanna and asked for a picture, this simple moment became one of his proudest.

She wasn’t one of Yuhanna’s basketball fans — not really, anyway. Mary isn’t focused on the boys’ basketball skills, but she is a fan of the team, as Yuhanna and the rest of the ROMS players volunteer each month at the Red Oak Health and Rehabilitation Center, where they visit seniors like Mary who don’t have many people coming to see them.

Mary just wanted a picture of the team, but the Red Oak boys didn’t want to be the center of attention. Instead, they made Mary the focus, placing her in the middle as they circled around her for the photo.

“I’m really happy I went,” Yuhanna said. “[Mary] was just really happy, and Coach Walker was really proud of us.”

The ROMS team is “like a family,” Yuhanna said, and they bring that family spirit to their community service where they play games like checkers and Bingo with the elders who live at the center.

Team member Lance Castle said the seniors at the center even know them by name. The ROMS 8th grader said one of his favorite residents is Queenie, with whom he talked about football and what he was going to be in life.

“I was standing and she was lying down with her teddy bear. My favorite part was how funny and uplifting she was,” he said. “It feels good helping the elderly, and it warms your heart up that you’re helping your community get better.”

Castle also likes the other team-building activities that happen on community service days, like when the team goes out for pizza.

“We are coming together at the end of the day,” Castle said.

Eighth grader Tucker McMillion also enjoys helping out at the center, where he’s even gone caroling in the residents’ rooms during Christmas time.

“I remember one time, we went into this lady’s room and sang ‘Jingle Bells’ to her,” McMillion said. “Whenever I leave that place, people are very happy [about us coming].”

Coach Jeff Dennis is proud of the community service the boys do, and said that the reason he and Walker have them volunteer is because service is good for the players.

Dennis said he was particularly proud when a relative of one of the center’s residents commented on the team and its good deeds.

“He complimented them on bringing joy to his family member,” Dennis said. “The boys have their ups and downs, but they always do their best.”

Coach Christopher Walker echoed Dennis’ sentiment about the team and their charitable works, saying that he is trying to reinforce to the younger generation how important it is to be a good citizen.

Walter was inspired to create the program, which is entering its second year, because as a young man, he would go play games with the elders at his church, an experience which helped shape who he is today.

“I’m trying to teach the basketball boys to be good-hearted men,” Walker said.

 

On a recent visit by the Red Oak Middle School boys basketball team to Red Oak Health & Rehabilitation Center, 96-year-old Mary Rowlette just wanted a picture of the team. Instead of making themselves the center of attention, they made Mary the focus, placing her in the middle as they circled around her for the photo.
Nick Ware
On a recent visit by the Red Oak Middle School boys basketball team to Red Oak Health & Rehabilitation Center, 96-year-old Mary Rowlette just wanted a picture of the team. Instead of making themselves the center of attention, they made Mary the focus, placing her in the middle as they circled around her for the photo.

 

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