HAMLET — In the midst of the team’s last week of summer workouts, head coach Mike Castellano, assistant coach Steve Burdeau and a handful of Richmond Senior football players made the short trip over to Cole Auditorium early Tuesday morning to speak to and interact with the kids in Leath Memorial Library’s summer reading program.
When Deborah Knight — outreach coordinator for Leath Memorial — saw that the program’s slogan this summer would be “get ready, get set, read,” she says she automatically thought about the high school’s football team.
“I thought what better role models could there be than the Richmond Raider football team? Because I love Raider football,” Knight said with a smile. “And so I called Coach C…I said I want you all to bring your football team and talk about teamwork, not bullying, reading and exercising.
“He automatically said ‘no problem’ and it has fallen together perfectly.”
Castellano took a few moments out to talk about what Knight had mentioned, but he also stressed the importance of getting good grades and putting yourself in a position to have an opportunity to go to college. He pointed out that the 13 players he chose to accompany him for the day are leaders on the field and in the classroom — calling attention to Dante Miller, a rising junior who boasts a 4.55 GPA.
“As an employee of this county and a football coach, we want to encourage all students to be successful and stay in school,” Castellano said. “And to understand that it’s okay to help one another, be good people, be smart people and get good grades.”
On behalf on the football team, Castellano donated two game balls — signed by players and coaches — to Knight in order for her to give away as door prizes this week.
“There’s a lesson in this for our guys and for our coaches as well,” Castellano said. “Just because people might buy a ticket to come watch us play on Friday nights, it doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility to give back.”
Burdeau would then introduce the players before dividing the children into groups so they could participate in a few football drills that were sure to get their blood pumping.
There was running, jumping, catching, falling and — most importantly — smiling.
“All of the kids are happy, they’re laughing, they were running. And plus, we’re in the air condition, so we don’t have to sweat too hard,” Knight joked. “I think it went awesome. Kids love hands-on and I knew this would be one of the best programs, because I knew what he (Castellano) was going to do.”
A brief speech on what it means to receive a good education from offensive lineman Daryn Mason wrapped up the day, as he believes that setting an example for the younger kids is essential.
“I think it’s very important, because I think it is installing that into the kids — that sense of motivation and urgency to be great and not just be average like everybody else,” Mason said. “Because some kids might not have a good situation around them, so it’s good to have role models that they can look up to.”
To go along with giving back to those in the summer reading program, the football team also made a pledge to attend the Conquer Chiari Walk Across America in Aberdeen on Saturday, September 17, in support of 8-year old Skyler Macedo — who has a neurological disorder called Chiari Malformation.
“Skyler’s a Richmond County girl and that’s the people we need to help take care of as a community,” Castellano explained. “If you can help out people in your community, that’s what life is all about. In this community, we are blessed because we do have good people and people that want to be involved. And anytime you can bring awareness to something like that or somebody like that, I think you had a good day.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.