Cardinal basketball players go into overtime

Point guards and forwards, centers and coaches have put in some overtime during Coon Rapids High School’s 2012-13 basketball season.

Jackson Bednar and Mitchell Zimmerman, forward and shooting guard, respectively, help a Salvation Army Toy Shop shopper select the perfect toy for her child. Photo by Sue Austreng

Jackson Bednar and Mitchell Zimmerman, forward and shooting guard, respectively, help a Salvation Army Toy Shop shopper select the perfect toy for her child. Photo by Sue Austreng

Together, they’ve devoted countless hours and boundless energy off the basketball court, accomplishing community service, helping provide for those in need and boosting the spirits of struggling families.

“It feels really good helping people with needs, helping meet those needs,” center Taylor Croal said as he led shoppers through the Salvation Army Toy Shop at the Minneapolis National Guard Armory Dec. 19.

Croal, his coaches and teammates volunteered at the toy shop as the third of three community service activities in which the Cardinals have participated this season.

“This year ninth-graders packed food at Feed My Starving Children, 10th graders were bell ringers for the Salvation Army at Riverdale Cub Foods and our JV and varsity players are volunteering here tonight at the Salvation Army Toy Shop,” said head coach Ryan Green.

Past community service activities meant working the school’s basketball tournaments, but Green didn’t feel that was really serving.

“They were helping out with something they already like to do, something they are already involved in,” Green said. “I wanted to have them do something that was more like serving those in need.”

And so, volunteer opportunities were identified that would, indeed, serve those in need: the homeless, the hungry, the hurting.

“These kids are nice kids. They work hard, they’re learning what they can do to help someone else,” Green said. “This also teaches teamwork and accountability – if they miss a service event we’ve planned, it counts as a missed practice, so they don’t want to miss, believe me.”

Green has been head coach of the Cardinal boys’ basketball team for four years now, and every year he’s got the boys taking part in what he feels is truly community service.

In addition to packing food at Feed My Starving Children, serving as bell ringers for the Salvation Army and volunteering at the toy shop, Cardinal basketball players have also volunteered at local homeless shelters.

“This really hits home with the kids because they get to see first-hand the families that they are helping,” Green said. “They get to see how they are making a difference.”

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com.

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