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December 19, 2012

Local sports programs take time to give back

By Christian Davis and Jason Carmel Davis
C & G Sports Writers

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Rochester Adams juniors Jenny Rosonke, middle, and Gabrielle Dolenga, right, hold baskets alongside student volunteer Chad Nelson. The Highlanders’ girls basketball team put the baskets together near Thanksgiving to give to their needy neighbors.

From charity games to taking a whole day to serve those in need, high school sports programs have been busy helping out their communities while they represent their schools.

Coaches from across the C & G coverage area are taking breaks from practice to help teach their athletes that being a role model is about more than success in athletics.

Here’s a look at just a few of the good deeds done by local athletes.

Day of service
On Nov. 2, Brother Rice students participated in a “Day of service,” where students, faculty and administration came together to give back.

With more than 700 volunteers, Brother Rice went out in force, serving at 30 different locations across metro Detroit.

“Our school is good on preaching about giving back, and I thought it was a good way to give actions to words,” senior basketball captain Mike Cooney said. “I thought it was a good way to come together as brothers and to come together for something bigger than ourselves.”

Cooney spent the day in Detroit, painting over graffiti, planting shrubs and more at a gas station.

Though students volunteer each year at the school on an individual basis, this was the first volunteer event that brought the whole Rice community together on one day.

Fellow senior basketball captain Isaac Turner said the experience was positive. He spent the day working at Gleaners Community Food Bank.

“I put myself in their situation. If I was homeless and I needed food, I’d want someone to look out for me like that,” he said. “It lets you know that not everyone is blessed like we are. It gives you a first-hand experience.”

Senior Anthony Dalimonte, who captained the football team and spent the day volunteering at St. Vincent DePaul, agreed.

“A lot of the time you’re doing community service, you don’t really see who it is affecting,” he said. “Sometimes you go clean up a church and you’re the only one there. Sometimes, by no fault of your own, you don’t see the impact you’re making. But when a 50-year-old woman sees you there helping, and a smile comes across her face that you’re helping and that there are young people out there giving back, it’s an amazing feeling.”

St. Clair Shores South Lake girls basketball team goes pink
St. Clair Shores South Lake girls basketball player Patti Ader said Cavaliers coach Shay Lewis’ teachings go beyond the basketball court.

“She teaches life lessons and teaches us about being good people,” Ader said.

Those lessons this fall have led to the girls hoops team holding a Shoot for the Cure event, where proceeds will go toward breast cancer research.

“Helping to raise funds for breast cancer was a no-brainer,” said Lewis, in her second year with the Cavaliers. “So many women, their families and friends are affected by the disease. I coach girls basketball. My players could be at risk some day. My mom is a survivor.

“As their coach, these are all reasons it’s important for me to have my players understand the importance of breast cancer awareness, and the girls wanted to rally behind this initiative.”

During the event, which took place Oct. 27 at South Lake, each Cavs player shot 100 free throws. Pledgers paid each player 50 cents for each made bucket, with half the proceeds going toward sponsoring a walker in an upcoming Susan G. Komen three-day, 60-mile breast cancer walk and the rest going to support the South Lake girls basketball program. The event raised $1,200.

A check was presented during a Dec. 11 South Lake/Farmington Hills Harrison game. The contest was dubbed The Pink Game in accordance with the team’s efforts in supporting breast cancer research and awareness.

“Knowing you’re doing something for such a good cause gives me a very positive feeling,” Cavs sophomore NaKyra Jordan said. “My grandmother passed away from breast cancer, so it hits home for me, and I’m glad to be able to do my part in helping find a cure.”

“I think it’s important for the community to see South Lake students doing positive things, and I believe it’s important for my players to know that, even as kids, they can make a difference,” Lewis said.

“As a coach, I get to teach life lessons through sport. This is another life lesson for them. They learn that if they are passionate about something and work hard at it, they can be a part of change and make a difference.”

Rochester Adams girls basketball makes baskets on and off the court
On Nov. 17, the Rochester Adams girls basketball team took some time off practice and, instead, went to work making Thanksgiving baskets.

The whole program participated in the event, which was coordinated by Kensington Church.

By the end of the day, 1,000 laundry baskets were filled with food and other goods to make a Thanksgiving feast just right. From there, they were delivered to neighbors in need.

“A few teammates and I delivered a basket to a family of two, a mother and her son,” senior captain Brittany Boyle said. “Seeing their smiling faces when we handed them their Thanksgiving meal was the pinnacle of the whole experience. I knew then that, even if I had only helped this one family, it was by all means worth it.”

Under coach Fran Scislowicz’s direction, the Highlanders have made it a tradition to volunteer their time for those who are less fortunate.

Along with the Thanksgiving baskets, each player on the team has selected a child and received his or her personal Christmas wish list to help the players choose gifts. The girls will also be meeting with the kids to read to them during the holiday season.

Doing it for others
Royal Oak High boys basketball coach Mike Massucci calls it “A.E.O.” — Attitude, Excellence and Others.

It’s a creed he encourages his players to live by, and this holiday season, they’re focusing on “others.”

“The ‘other’ part isn’t just about being a good teammate, son or student. It’s also about doing good for people in your community,” Massucci said.

The Ravens are adopting a family over the holidays and, on Dec. 10, senior captains Devin Carmen, Andrew Glenn and Joel Gorbold spent the day running a clinic at the Boys and Girls Club in Royal Oak.

“Andrew and I grew up through the Boys and Girls Club, so it was a way for us to give back,” Carmen said. “It feels good. Everyone here is blessed, and it’s unfortunate to see some people that aren’t, so we want to be able to give back.”

“They’ve always been there for me, so I want to be there for them,” Glenn added.

Utica Stevenson girls basketball teams brighten lives of disadvantaged children
Troy Marks is in his fourth season as Utica Stevenson varsity girls basketball coach.

Each year, Marks’ team — along with the Titans’ freshmen and JV squads — “adopt” a child during the holiday season, with the hopes of giving him or her a merry Christmas.

“It makes me think about what I have and how fortunate I am,” Stevenson sophomore Rachel Magliulo said.

This year, the girls hoops programs are working with the Sterling Heights-based Amelia Agnes Transitional Home. Players from all three Stevenson teams will purchase and deliver gifts to children at the home just before the Christmas holiday.

Marks said he puts an emphasis on teaching his players the importance of giving back.

“Yeah­, I’m a basketball coach,” Marks said. “But I try and prepare them for life.”

Titans junior Sarah Leone said seeing the children’s reactions upon receiving the gifts makes her happy. She added that the players enjoy the shopping experience.

“We have a list of everything they want, but you just want to buy them everything,” Leone said.

“You know the kids who get the gifts are going to be happy, and they get a little overwhelmed when they see 30 girls coming at them with bags of stuff,” Marks said. “But the looks on the girls’ faces are just as priceless. You can tell they’re enjoying doing something for somebody else. That selflessness is what we’re trying to teach.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Christian Davis at cdavis@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1062. Twitter Follow Christian on Twitter.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Jason Carmel Davis at jdavis@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1107. Twitter Follow Jason on Twitter.