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Athletes of Distinction

Mid-South Community College Basketball Players Learn Life Lessons at Ronald McDonald Houser

Mid-South Community College basketball players recently took a break from their study and practice routines to volunteer as cooks at the Ronald McDonald House® in Memphis. They will likely not forget the experience anytime soon.

“As we fed those kids and their families, it helped me look at life in a different perspective,” said second-year Greyhound Trevail Lee. “I realized I don’t need to take anything for granted because it can be taken away from me any moment or any time. Seeing how those kids are not able to lead a normal life helps you realize life is too short to be complaining.”

“Just to see the children still smiling even though they know what they’re going through is something special,” added Brittany King of the Lady Greyhounds. “It just makes me think that when I’m mad or upset, I could be going through that. Those kids seem okay, so I should be okay as well.”

Sophomore Eugene Palmer, who has gone with teammates to the facility on two different occasions, called it “a really good experience. It was great cooking for the kids, and seeing them smiling was priceless. You can’t get that anywhere else. It also made me very thankful that I’m not in that situation.”

“It was a good experience because we got to see what people go through when their children are having chemo at St. Jude,” added Jasmine Greer, in her second year in the Lady Greyhound program. “I started to understand that they can’t have the things we have, but they still manage to do what they need to do to keep themselves happy.”

The Ronald McDonald House®, a program of Ronald McDonald House® Charities of Memphis, is a “home-away-from-home” for families who are in Memphis while their child is receiving treatment for cancer or some other catastrophic illness at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The organization enables families to focus on the health of their child rather than anything else.

The experience “affected the players tremendously,” said MSCC women’s coach Kim Turner. “They were very excited when I told them what we were going to do. Some of them were a little timid at first because they had never been in an environment like that, but when they saw the joy they were bringing to the kids and their parents, it made them feel ecstatic.”

The teams traveled to Memphis on two separate occasions in October. The men cooked ready-made lasagna, and the women cooked tacos and nachos. MSCC Education Instructor Lori Payne, who is a frequent volunteer and an official Ronald McDonald House Ambassadors, coordinated the effort.

“I’ve been doing this for years, and I try to go about every three or four months,” Payne said. “I go with my church group, with Marion Rotary Club, and now with the basketball teams. It’s an awesome place.”

“The people there are dealing with life and death situations. Their worlds have been turned completely upside down. It just makes you realize, ‘I don’t have any problems in life.’ I have little inconveniences that are really nothing.”

The facility relies on volunteers to help with meal duty, especially in the evenings. By the end of the day, most residents can use any comfort they can get.

“The people are so appreciative because they don’t have to worry about cooking,” Payne said. “A lot of them have been in the hospital for 12 hours straight, so having a home-cooked meal makes their day.”

The players said they received warm receptions from the children and parents.

“For me, I felt they were thankful and appreciative that we came to cook for them,” King said. “They told us, ‘Thank you. I’m glad you did this. I’m glad you came.’”

“I felt like I had accomplished something important, that I had done something good for somebody else and wasn’t expecting anything in return,” King continued. “It was something I wanted to do because I felt it was the right thing to do. I know if I were their situation, I would want somebody to come and do the same thing for me.”

Payne said she received numerous compliments from parents and families about how well-mannered, well behaved, and helpful the players were. “And the children loved seeing the guys in their warm-up suits and interacting with them.”

A couple of kids, including a 5-year-old boy, bonded with the men’s team and stayed after the meal to play with them. Unbeknownst to the players, the youngster had been put in hospice care and was not expected to live much longer.

“They were playing like they were going to live forever,” Lee said. “One of the kids had been diagnosed with something that only gave him a couple more weeks to live, but you couldn’t tell by his attitude because he so playful and happy. That really made me appreciate life.”

MSCC Athletic Director and Dean of Students Jason Carmichael said the experience was emotional for all involved.

“In my previous experiences at the RMH, I had never seen a child come out afterwards to associate/play with the group, so I initially thought that it was probably the brother or sister of one of the patients,” he said. “So I just processed it as something different but not that big a deal.”

When Payne related the full story to the players and staff on the bus, the emotional atmosphere changed.

“I am not certain how a person could not tear up and have their heart touched when they hear that story,” Carmichael said. “After Lori left, we drove home, and next to 9/11, I cannot recall a time as an educator where I was around a group of young people who were being so strongly motivated to be introspective, not through mandate, but through circumstance, a life touch.”

“Everybody needs to go there at least once,” Payne said. “I caught the bug about 10 years ago, and I have gone more frequently in the last five years. It’s just what I’ve been gifted with and called to do. It’s awesome.”

Anyone who needs more convincing can talk with any of the MSCC basketball players.

For information about the Ronald McDonald House in Memphis, see the website at http://www.rmhc-memphis.org.

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