Session #6: People 2018.10.20

Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
~ Helen Keller

Handshake America Columbus

Handmade blankets for the Ronald McDonald House from Teams 3&4

Handmade blankets for the Ronald McDonald House from Teams 3&4

We just finished up the third and final PEOPLE session at the OhioHealth Chiller Ice Rink, in Lewis Center. All three two-team sessions involved givebacks in one form or another. All three benefited people the coaches and students will likely never meet. In my humble opinion, I think that is worth mentioning because in the short amount of time it took for them to do what they did they are going to impact someone’s life in a positive way. So, what did they do and why was it significant?

Teams #1 and #2 spent a cool, overcast Saturday morning pulling weeds, tearing up tarps, and winding up and emptying a mile of irrigation hose for the UALC Community Garden, an event coordinated through the efforts of Handshake Coach Lori Fry of Navigator Mgmt Partners. The community garden uses the produce they grow to feed hungry families in the central Ohio area. The labor they provided helped the handful of people who maintain it prepare the garden for the winter months and clears the way for spring planting. It may not sound like much on paper, but this is no backyard garden! And if you’ve ever done any gardening you appreciate the help when it comes to the tough stuff.

Teams #3 and #4 spent part of their evening at the Victoria’s Secret offices in Reynoldsburg creating blankets for the Ronald McDonald House at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, an event coordinated and hosted by Handshake Coach Mike Van Straten of L Brands. These blankets are part of a package given to the families of children who need a place to stay while their child is being treated at the hospital. A rough time is made a little less rough with these soft, comforting handmade gifts.

Facilitated by Adam Weingartner of Bluestone Wealth, teams #5 and #6 met at the mezzanine of the Ohio Health Chiller Ice Rink where they heard from Dave Caruso (, former Ohio State and professional hockey goalie, and Victoria Alesi, from the Huckleberry House. We’ll come back to Dave in a moment so that we can address the giveback portion of the evening. Victoria opened our eyes to the reality of homelessness among teenagers in Columbus. Huckleberry House is a shelter for teens in need and who are willing to accept help. The program is comprehensive in that it gives them real hope and real help during this already difficult time of life. The coaches and students filled backpacks with necessities and snacks and then added a touch of Positivity by putting encouraging messages right on the bags.

As for Dave Caruso, he shared quite a story – one to which all the athletes in the room could relate. Although our session was on PEOPLE, his story personified all the 5P’s. The discussion following Dave’s address bore that out. Coaches and students alike pointed out examples of PERSEVERANCE, PASSION, POSITIVITY, PEOPLE, and PRESENCE in what he shared with us not just as an athlete, but as a coach, a talent evaluator, and an ambassador for his sport.

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File this story under PERSEVERANCE and POSITIVITY: Dave grew up in Atlanta, which is known to be hot, but not exactly a hotbed for the game of hockey. He loved it, though, and took every opportunity to play to get noticed…then, finally he was. One coach, who came to be his mentor, recognized and helped develop Dave’s talent despite a couple of tough games in net.

File this story under PASSION, PEOPLE, and PRESENCE: Feeling as if the well of opportunity in Atlanta had run dry, Dave left Atlanta to head north. That very coach, in whom he greatly trusted, called him and told him to turn around and head to the pro hockey arena where they were holding practices, stand by the doors with his equipment, and tell the first person he saw that if they needed a goalie, then he was the guy. The gentleman he met outside the doors said they didn’t need a goalie and went back into the arena…only to return to ask him how he knew they needed a goalie (one of their goalies had just been injured). In a few short minutes he was out on the ice taking pucks for a pro hockey team. Its right out of a movie script.

The discussion portions of the evening had a couple of notable points that are truly worth passing along. The first is a quote attributed earliest to Teddy Roosevelt: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” People are wary of buying into a system until they have a sense that they are an important part of it. That’s a pretty important truth about people to internalize and practice when it comes to anyone in a leadership position; whether you are a coach, a team captain, a manager, a CEO, a teacher, or even a student council representative. You can know it all, but unless you can relate to your audience, your message may be lost.

The second takeaway was from Dave Caruso. It was a philosophy to remember: a coach’s influence is never neutral. It is either positive or negative. Chew on that for a little bit. A coach speaks no idle words.

The third centered around the assigned video that dealt with how to have a good conversation. The takeaways from the video? Be engaged in a conversation. Set aside the distractions. Listen to understand, not to respond. Don’t pontificate. Its worth the watch. Following the discussion of the video, all in the room were in agreement as to the number one distraction from good conversation. Cell phones. Coaches and students alike recognized it. It’s a matter of discipline because we need to accept that they are here to stay.

Each of the activities of each session demonstrated one thing: together we can do so much. On that note, I’ll end with an African proverb that puts much of life with people in perspective: To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.