When Grain Valley High School baseball coach Brian Driskell was a youngster, his father would encourage him to help other people in the neighborhood.
At the time, he wondered what his father was thinking.
Now, he knows – and he’s passing on the compassion he learned at an early age to members of his Eagles baseball team.
All 40 members of the Eagles spent last Saturday compacting cans, so they could be sold and the money donated to area homeless shelters, and picking up debris from the tornado that struck parts of Grain Valley and Oak Grove.
“Now, I can’t take all the credit for the work day,” Driskell said, as his team prepared to leave for the Marshall Baseball Tournament this weekend in Marshall, Missouri. “Mark Lyford (the former Eagles baseball coach who is now the activities director for Grain Valley middle schools) started this program back in 2012.
“When he left the program to become an AD, I was excited to keep it going. Mark’s such a quiet, unassuming guy, he probably wouldn’t even want people to know he was a part of something like this. But this program really has an impact on the lives of a lot of people in our community.
“And that’s important to me. I think so many people think that teenagers today are selfish and only care about themselves and their cell phones. And that might be true for some kids – but certainly not all of them. We have 40 kids on our team, and all 40 showed up for the work day and we got a lot accomplished.”
As Driskell pitched in to help his team, he thought back to his younger days, when his family made sure their neighbors were able to get things done in a time of need.
“There was an elderly lady who lived across the street and we’d always shovel her driveway in the winter,” Driskell said, “and then a neighbor down the street broke his leg so we’d stop on our way home and get his mail and help with his yard work.
“Those are things you remember. The work day is something I hope all the guys on the team remember. It’s my favorite day of the year, and I hope it’s theirs, too.”
Team captains Mitch Chapman and Nick Wagoner echo their coach’s comments.
“The last four years, we’ve had a day where we give back to the community, and people in Grain Valley have done so much for us, it’s the least we can do,” Chapman said. “The older you get, the more you look forward to it. This is my fourth year and I’m really going to miss not being a part of it next year.”
Wagoner said the work day has become an Eagles baseball team tradition.
“It’s one day we all look forward to, a tradition with our team,” Wagoner said. “We’re out there working with each other, getting kind of competitive, seeing who can collect the most cans or who can pick up the most bags of leaves. I’m sure everyone approaches it a different way, but the one thing we all share when we’re done is a sense of pride.”