Evidence 101

EVIDENCE 101...Wherever you go, there you are...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Picking Up Butch

I asked one of my favorites, Slamdunk, to do a guest post. I forgot to tell him not to give me goose bumps or make me cry. Oh, well...what the hell, I cry a lot lately, so I'm used to it. When you are done reading his fantastic post, go visit him here.

The question I gave him came to me one day when I was on duty dealing with yoots. The kids were trouble. Pretty soon..everywhere I looked I saw troubled yoots, yoots in trouble, yoots smoking trouble, yoots selling trouble.

Then I thought to myself...why aren't we reaching these kids? Why are they falling through the cracks? What motivates kids? What inspires them? Why are they dropping out of school? Why aren't they picking up a basketball or going to piano lessons?  Reading a book? Getting a hobby...other than selling crack on the sidewalk and walking around like a Prostitot? These questions can be answered, but ...the hard question lies with Slam.

Seriously...my community is looking more and more like mini Vegas.

I don't have a solution. However, Slam might be on to something here...

Picking Up Butch

The great Momma Fargo asked me to respond to this:

How can society effectively motivate young people?

Wow, it is difficult to answer such a broad question without making an audience yawn.

So, rather than me requiring readers to consume two cups of coffee or, in the tradition of the teenager, downing a 16 oz. Mountain Dew before reading this, I'll address the question about motivation with a specific example.

One that started inauspiciously many years ago in rural Vermont.

On a snowy day in 1960, Middlebury College sophomore Roger Ralph noticed an elderly woman struggling with a young man in a wheelchair.  They were all attending the College's football game.

Ralph stopped and helped the pair. 

He learned that the handicapped boy was 13-year-old Richard “Butch” Varno and that the older woman had taken her grandson to see the game.

Butch was a big sports fan and loved watching Middlebury's teams, so Ralph offered to assist him in attending the next game.

Then he helped Butch go to additional games.

Soon other students wanted to help Butch enjoy the sporting competitions, and a tradition was born.

Amazingly, one that continues today--even 50 years later.

For every home football and basketball game at Middlebury College, varsity players pick-up the now 63-year old Butch Varno at his nursing home and transport him to his courtside or fieldside seat.

Not only do student-athletes drive him, but they also sit with him.  Sharing the joys and sadness that sporting events offer to true fans.

And, Middlebury students also go beyond just sports.

A few years ago, pole vaulter Sara Smith worked weekly with Butch and helped him earn his GED.

Last year, Butch's story attracted lots of local media, and even some national attention.

And that is how Tara Bedard, a fourth grade teacher at the McAuliffe School in Lowell, MA, learned about Butch.

Moved by the story, Ms. Beddard showed a video about this tradition to her classes.

Probably this one:

The fourth-graders then wrote letters to Butch in his nursing home.

Lots of them. 

They thanked him for sharing his story, and included statements like this hoping that they: "Could be as kind and generous as the athletes they saw in the video."

The teacher was then able to coordinate a visit to McAuliffe School by Ryan Wholey, a member of Middlebury College's basketball team who had "picked-up Butch" during his first-year of college.

Ryan talked to a packed room of young students about his experience, and encouraged them to seek ways to help others.

He presented the school with a group photo of a smiling Butch surrounded by Middlebury College's basketball team, and also brought a basketball for each student to sign. 

When he returned to Vermont, Ryan gave the basketball and 80 handwritten letters to a floored Butch.

A gift from young yet inspired strangers.

Ms. Bedard facilitated an experience that her students will likely never forget.

So what can be learned about youth motivation from how a 63-year-old sports fan who uses a wheelchair attends games and a dedicated teacher who provides practical learning experiences for her 4th grade students?

Encourage children to become involved.

Foster them in seeking opportunities to help people; and offer tangible examples.

Show them that they are connected to others--despite differences that may exist.

Help them to realize that one individual can make a difference in this world.

Inspiration will translate to motivation.

As teacher Tara Bedard is doing in Massachusetts.

As Roger Ralph did 50 years ago on a snowy afternoon in Vermont.

How can society effectively motivate young people?

Challenge them to "pick-up Butch."


Thank you Momma Fargo for allowing me to invade your blog today.

Thank YOU, Slam. It was an honor to have you be my guest.  I think you are on to something great. What's better than having the positive role models change the world?