• Jaguar learns impact of generosity on trip

  • When Emery Ester was growing up on the mean streets of Kansas City, he had a dream.

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  • When Emery Ester was growing up on the mean streets of Kansas City, he had a dream.
    “I wanted to be a professional football player,” the Blue Springs South senior running back said. “I wanted to play in the NFL. It's all I thought about.”
    But Ester wasn't thinking about the glory, the fame and the headlines that come with making it in the NFL.
    “I wanted to make it in the NFL so I could help people,” he said, quietly. “I knew if I had some money, I could help a lot of people.
    “I've been hungry. I've gone quite a few days without eating much. I've been in the dark because we didn't have electricity. I've been down on my hands and knees scrubbing my clothes because I wanted them to look nice and we didn't have a washing machine that worked.
    “I know what poverty is. I've experienced it.”
    That's why he was the first member of the Jaguar football team to sign up for a charitable trip to Harmon, Jamaica, where – for the first time – members of the Jaguars and Blue Springs Wildcats worked together to build two homes and help dig a crude sewage system for a tiny speck on the map that makes the inner city here look like a five-star resort.
    “We all knew that Emery had gone through some tough times, and he really doesn't like to talk about it much,” said South assistant football coach Dan Sundberg, who worked with Blue Springs assistant Matt Marble on the Won by One trip. “He moved in with his aunt (Robin Charles) when he was a sophomore, and he didn't say much that year. But now that he is a senior, he has the respect of everyone on our team. He still doesn't say much, but when he does, we listen.”
    Sundberg assigned Ester a work detail with Marble that made as much of an impact on the Wildcats coach as any aspect of his eighth trip to a poverty stricken area in the world.
    “I didn't know Emery at all,” Marble said. “But then I started working with him, and knew he was a quality kid. But what he did on one of the last days of the stay in Harmon was unbelievable. I'll never forget it.”
    Marble and the group found out that a young girl from Harmon named Natescha Jennings needed money to attend high school. Schooling costs around $1,200, and if a girl can't come up with that money, she is basically tossed to the streets.
    “We had some amazing sponsors help a lot of the guys make the trip, and we did a lot of fundraising,” Sundberg said, “and I found out from Matt that we could help this girl go to high school, so we pooled our extra money and were able to pay her first year.”
    Page 2 of 2 - That created a buzz among the players, and soon they determined that with the extra money donated by sponsors they could pay for most of her first two years of school.
    “At the end of the trip, I was talking to the guys about what it would take to get her a second year of school and I told them it would take about $27 from each guy,” Marble said. “I think when you put it in terms like that, they really understand.
    “That's when Emery got up and came over to me and handed me $27. I can't even put into words what that meant to me.”
    Making the move from the Hickman Mills School District to the Blue Springs School District made the same type of impact on the soft-spoken young man who still dreams of helping those in need.
    “I live with my aunt, and she gave me some money,” Ester said. “I had $27 and I want that girl to be able to go to four years of high school. It wasn't a big deal to me to have $27. But it was a big deal to her that she get that extra money.”
    Marble and Sundberg now hope to return to Harmon and raise enough money to take care of four years of high school for the young lady who made such an impact on a group of young men who live a world away.
    “There are people who get it,” Sundberg said, “like our sponsors we call, talk about the trip, and they ask, 'How much do you need?' Then there are the people who hang up on you before you finish with your first sentence.
    “Emery gets it. To make a gesture like that, to help that girl, was very special and very personal for Emery. He made an impact on all of us that week, and especially that night.”
    Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC

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