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Volunteer work at Hattie Larlham offers inspiration to Rough Riders

By Tom Nader | Sports Editor Published: January 29, 2013 4:00 AM
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In his seventh season as the head coach of the Kent Roosevelt girls basketball program, Craig Foreman has always made a distinct effort to combine athletic competition with projects that spotlight community outreach.

It is one of the many layers Foreman and his coaching staff embrace, choosing to create an athletic experience that shines light on more than just wins and losses.

"Sports competition is amazing, and I want to win all the time," Foreman said, "but to give up your time to help someone else is something our players can take with them when they graduate. We hope that it enhances everything they do."

For Foreman's players, this year's volunteer time has hit on a more emotional level and has left an equally positive imprint, as the Rough Riders have dedicated every Thursday night since December to spending time with children and adults at Hattie Larlham. Located on Diagonal Road in Mantua, the center has been committed to quality care for children and adults with development disabilities since 1961.

"I am so proud of all the projects we have done in the past, but I think this particular volunteer project has really moved the girls and just has been very powerful," Foreman said. "I truly believe it has strengthened our team."

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The idea to volunteer at Hattie Larlham was initially presented by senior captain Audrey Coyne during the preseason.

"She brought it to my attention and thought it would be a good experience for the team. When Audrey talked to me about it, we were on the same page, because I had went to help over the summer and it made such a great impact on me," said Foreman, who mentioned that his three sons, ages 8, 6 and 4, also volunteer with the team.

In order to work the volunteer time into his team's busy schedule, Foreman found himself at a fork in the road since it would interrupt his team's typical practice schedule.

"I knew we wanted to do this, so it was just a matter of finding out what would work best for us," Foreman said. "For a minute, I thought that we could hold practice beforehand, but I did not think that would be fair to the girls because they have so much to do already with homework and other things."

When it came to making a decision, Foreman chose to bypass practice in exchange for something greater, knowing that the opportunity for team bonding would outweigh another day in the gym.

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For Coyne, the time spent together as a team has made an impact that could never be recreated in a practice format.

"You get to see a different side to everyone," Coyne said. "You get to see a lot of their heart and a lot of their thoughtful actions. I think it has translated on the court for us."

"It is more personal for us, because we have to be there for the kids at Hattie just like we have to be there for each other on the court," Coyne said.

Joining the Rough Riders on the court will be a group from Hattie Larlham for the team's game at home against Springfield on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

Hosting the "From Our Family to Yours" event, some of those that the team has interacted with over the last three months have been invited as special guests for the game. With support from Harley Davidson of Mantua, T-shirts and a halfcourt halftime shot, among other events, will help raise awareness and donations for Hattie Larlham.

Led by Coyne and fellow senior captain Libby Bradford, the entire Roosevelt team has spent time making signs to be posted at the school to lift interest in the game -- just as the team's volunteer time has lifted their spirits.

"I think it has given all of us a good feeling, because you can sense the impact you are having on them," Coyne said. "When you are working on a craft project with them, you can see their eyes follow you and when we leave, you can tell that they don't want us to. I think they have learned from us, but I also think that we have learned a lot more from them."

Hattie Larlham is open to interested volunteers and can be contacted by phone at 1-800-233-8611 or on their official website www.hattielarlham.org.

Email: tnader@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9443

Twitter: @Tom_Nader

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anonymous Feb 1, 2013 10:47 AM

What a wonderful thing Coach Craig Foreman has done and is doing for these girls!

I am very proud of Audrey Coyne, my grandaughter, and through Audrey at several family functions I have gotten know her wonderful friend, Libby Bradford. Clearly, these young girls, almost young adults, are being raised correctly! My son, Ken, and his wife, Anne, are great parents! Until Anne sent me an e-mail of this article I knew nothing of the marvelous work Audrey and Libby and the enire basketball team from Roosevelt was doing off-court. Coach Foreman is totally correct in that the experiences off-court exceed, far outweigh in importance a basketball team won/loss record. Aud and Lib will remember The Coach and his efforts all the days of their lives, as will Audrey's grandfather!

My sincere thanks to the Coach!

Tom Coyne