The Richmond Register

April 24, 2014

OVC FOOTBALL: Making a difference a world away

By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor

RICHMOND — For years, EKU football coach Dean Hood had seen the television commercials for organizations seeking to raise funds for people from the world’s most impoverished places.

Those images had a genuine emotional affect on him.

But, he was skeptical about just how much any financial donation he might make would actually impact the lives of the people who needed that help the most.

“It really hit me that, wow, there are people that have that kind of life,” Hood said. “I wanted to help, but I never did because in the back of my mind I was like, ‘Those kids aren’t going to get that money.’”

Still, Hood wanted to do something.

And when he found an organization he believed in, the coach was eager to do everything in his power to make a difference.

Through a group called the Hands and Feet Project, Hood and the EKU football team have sponsored an orphan in Haiti the past two years — a young man named Stephenson. Several members of the coaching staff and a handful of players went to the island nation earlier this year to help at the orphanage.

They hope to return again next year with even more players.

To raise funds for the trip, the EKU football team is presenting the first-ever 5K Walk/Run for Haiti. The event is scheduled for Saturday in Richmond.

The walk/run is set to start at 10 a.m. at the Ashland Lot on Lancaster Ave. The cost is $20 and includes a race t-shirt and gift bag.

Check in is scheduled for 9 a.m.

“All the money (from this event) goes to getting our guys down there so they can change some lives.”

Hood’s trip to Haiti last year was a life-changing experience for the veteran coach. The group flew into Port-au-Prince, the county’s capital, and went on to visit two orphanages, including the one in Jacmel where Stephenson lives.

“It was miles deep of people living under two sticks and a piece of canvas,” Hood said. “No clean water. The river is polluted. We’ve got pictures, but you can’t even imagine.”

The experience was especially moving for one Colonel.

After graduating from EKU, Christian Albertson returned to Haiti. He is currently in an internship with the Hands and Feet Project in Grand Grove where he is overseeing a vocational program called Haiti Made, which creates real work and life experiences for young adults.

Hood has encouraged everyone on the team to be part of the effort to help the people of Haiti — and the players have been more than willing to help.

“Once a month, our kids bring in at least a penny,” Hood said. “You’ve got to bring in something. No more than $5. We don’t want them to feel stressed, but we want them to learn to give and help others.”

It costs $300 a month to sponsor Stephenson. The money brought in by the players goes to that fund and Hood and the coaching staff usually make up the difference out of their own pockets.

The Hands and Feet Project recently bought more property adjacent to one of the orphanages. The organization plans on building apartments for some of the older residents, so that they can transition out of the facility and back into society.

“It’s not about getting them adopted,” Hood said. “It’s about lets teach them a skill and keep them here in Haiti and make Haiti better.”

When the Colonels go back to Haiti this year, they will help with the construction of that apartment complex.

At the first meeting about the trip organized by the coaching staff, more than 20 players showed up and expressed an interesting in being involved.