It Started with Service…

There are endless opportunities for community service offered at Out-of-Door, as service is a requirement for all high school students. However, many find it difficult to be enthusiastic about volunteering for something that they don’t have a passion or personal interest in. Ian (a freshman) and Ben Martin (a sophomore) found a solution to this.

As many know, Mr. Sommers, ODA history teacher, is involved with a charitable foundation called Games 4 Good, which uses the power of sports to generate positive changes around the world. When Ian and Ben went to Mr. Sommers looking for a community service opportunity involving lacrosse, Mr. Sommers realized the potential of the idea.

“Visible Men Academy had emailed him that day asking for help to start a lacrosse program through Games 4 Good. It worked out perfectly and he gave me their contact information,” explains Ben Martin.

The Martin brothers were able to connect with VMA, a charter school that works with boys from low-income families. They explained how their program, Top Shelf Lacrosse, would teach underprivileged boys how to play lacrosse and learn the values of the sport. Neil Philips, the principal, agreed that it would be a great program to bring to VMA.

Games 4 Good provides funding to some groups involved with VMA, so they offered the Martin brothers some help in getting funds that they needed. Mr. Sommers was pleasantly surprised by the Martins’ independence in fundraising.

“They’ve done an amazing job. Games 4 Good provided the nets and goals, but the boys provided a lot of the other funds themselves,” says Mr. Sommers.

After that, Top Shelf Lacrosse rapidly became a success.

“Our biggest worry was that we weren’t going to have enough kids sign up, and we were only planing on 10 or 15, so we were really excited when 24 came out. We still have more joining,” says Ben Martin.

Not only do the boys get to fulfill their community service requirements by doing something they love, but they also can feel good about what their work is doing and the lives it is changing.

“Our goals are to instill a sense of teamwork and leadership between the boys. We do this by assigning captains each time to help us coach, and giving each captain a leadership role for the day. The kids respect each other enough that this works well,” says Ben Martin.

Without Top Shelf Lacrosse, the boys of VMA would not get as much exposure to activities or necessarily have the same opportunities to learn the values of playing a team sport.

The Martin brothers are always looking for help and other volunteers, especially those with any kind of background in lacrosse. The program is every week after school on Wednesdays at VMA in Bradenton.

The takeaway of this for ODA students? Be encouraged to find your passion through service and get involved!