Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Local Volunteers Bond with Athletes across the Country

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Local Volunteers Bond with Athletes across the Country

Article excerpt

Byline: ALEX AUSTIN

Folks from Alaska to Carolina were feeling the St. Johns County love last week. And the lessons learned were life-changing for everyone involved.

Two volunteer groups from St. Johns County worked with Athletes to Champions, a nonprofit sports organization, to help a high school football team in Barrow, Alaska, and a youth league baseball team in Statesville, N.C.

The trip to Barrow, one of Alaska's coldest towns, marked the second time volunteers with the organization visited the city to lead a football training camp for the local high school.

One of the volunteers from this year's trip was Bartram Trail High School football coach Darrell Sutherland. After returning home this week, Sutherland said he was surprised how quickly his players bonded with the Barrow players.

"They jumped right in and took their jobs seriously as far as coaching the Barrow guys and trying to be role models, but at the same time just befriending them and getting out there and building relationships.

The theme of the training camp was "Band of Brothers," and coaches from both schools said they were pleased with the way the players embraced the message.

"It was just like family coming home," said Brian Houston, coach of the Barrow Whalers. "The coaches have done a great job with these young men."

Houston added he loved seeing the way his players responded to the Bartram Trail players.

"It was great for the kids to be able to hear the lessons we've been teaching them from their peers," he said. "Hearing it from your peers, it hits home a little more."

Houston said he hopes his players can in turn become leaders for the community and pass on what they learned from the Bears.

Sutherland said it was a great experience for everyone involved. He wanted to thank the town of Barrow and its team for being gracious hosts. He also thanked Cathy Parker, Laurie Hall, the players, the coaches and all other contributors for making the trip possible. …

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