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Special to The Province
As football players, most of our weekends are spent giving you something to cheer about. It's what many of these men do every other day, however, that should make you proud.
For years, professional organizations have had community programs to give back, stay in touch, and promote.
For the most part, they rely on voluntary player participation, outside of football requirements. It is based purely on the fact that players want to get involved.
Over the past 11 years, I have witnessed the Lions' community involvement evolve from sporadic hospital and school visits, to an impressive organization that last year alone saw well over 100 total visits and appearances by players at various schools, hospitals, and charitable events. We're not just talking about local visits either. The club's programs aim to cover most of the province.
We usually travel in groups of three; go on two to three-day road trips, reaching sometimes up to six schools in that span. This is our free time, and this is what many of the players choose to do with it. Giving back isn't part of our job as players; it's simply the right thing to do.
Yes, it is made easier when the club is so committed, and the programs are put in place but, believe me, there is a waiting list among players to get involved. That's impressive.
Some players take things even further. These guys are the real super heroes. Participating in team community programs is one thing. To start your own, well that's another. Far removed from his hard-hitting, trash-talking play, all-star Korey Banks has quietly built 'H.O.P.E 24' (Helping Other People Elevate), a foundation in Atlanta dedicated to making sure that no youth is denied playing high school sports for financial reasons.
Korey saw a need, and did something about it. "You see how a little money can help change the path someone might take," he says. H.O.P.E 24 is in its third year and sponsors around 30 youth right now. Korey's goal is to get to 500. We all cheer for him because he makes great plays on the field but we all should look up to him because of the difference he's making in his community.
Money can get the ball rolling but guidance and encouragement is the next step. I've had the honour of listening to J.R LaRose speak. If you ever get the chance to hear him, do so; he's very impressive. Some speakers have a great story, others just know how to command your attention. J.R has both. Lucky for the youth around this country, he's out there telling his story, and telling it well.
J.R has created LaRose Athletics, a travelling workshop that tours the country aiming to educate, empower and encourage the youth of today. It's an impressive feat to put something like this together on your own. J.R. cares about the youth and puts his time and effort where his heart is. The LaRose Athletics program now reaches thousands of youth each year.
These stories are endless. Most you'll never read about. Your BC Lions are out there, getting involved and making a difference. This is not part of their job, this is just the kind of people they are. It's everywhere, every day.
Geroy Simon coaches youth football, Rolly Lumbala and Jamall Lee work with Pathfinder Society, helping at-risk youth. One day this week, Jason Arakgi and Solomon Elimimian quietly stopped in at Children's Hospital after practice to put smiles on some children's faces. Even our great wives get involved and are doing a Food Bank drive before our game Saturday against Winnipeg at Empire Field. The list and examples are endless.
Whether you're happy when we're winning, or upset when we're losing, you can always take pride in the players of this organization and their constant efforts to continually improve the community around them. I am personally proud of all my teammates who demonstrate such great leadership and passion on the field and in their communities. It makes me proud to be a Lion.