Spirit and Sport program helps youth build skill and connect with older generation
Kelly Scott of St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony played college basketball in the shadow of Randy Breuer — literally.
At 5-foot-11, Scott does not appear short, except when he stands next to Breuer, who is 16 inches taller at 7-3. They played together in the early 1980s for the Minnesota Gophers and won a Big Ten championship during the 1982-83 season, Scott’s junior year.
Breuer was a standout center on that team, while Scott got very little playing time. Yet, he made his mark during practices, when his hard work and determination set an example that the other players followed.
Now he’s pushing for a different goal — to help young athletes move ahead in their skill development.
But there’s more to his recently launched Spirit and Sport program than just producing highly skilled grade school and high school athletes. He also wants these same kids, both boys and girls, to make a difference in their communities by helping seniors.
Joy of giving
When they choose to sign up for 10 hour-and-a-half sessions at the St. Charles gym, they also must turn in a form pledging to spend an hour of service to a senior. They can pick someone they know or are related to — although not their grandparents — and they also decide when to do it and what their service will be.
The inspiration for this came from Scott’s experience of helping his aging mother, Marjorie, before her death in 2006.
“We are trying to help seniors live out the rest of their lives in dignity and love,” he said. “That’s extremely important to me, having seen what my mother went through. In the next 20 years, we’re going to double our population of seniors. How are we going to care for those people?
“I see what’s going on in our society. I stood at center court the day we won the Big Ten championship and 18,000 fans were cheering for us. I stood at my mother’s bed when she passed from this world to the next. There’s nothing like it. It’s great to be cheered, [but] it’s way better to give.”
Although he has a full-time job with a local flooring company, Scott is spending lots of his spare time working on Spirit and Sport. He has about 10 to 20 kids a week coming to the gym for training on Thursday and Saturday nights, and he’s hoping to increase the numbers.
Beyond that, he wants to have his own facility someday, which will cost about $12 million. The plan is to have 60,000 square feet that would be home to four basketball courts, a swimming pool and areas for soccer, baseball, lacrosse and hockey training.
So far, he has been using money brought in from sales of his book, “Inspirations from the Bench,” in which he recounts his playing days at the U. He also has a big fundraiser planned for Aug. 6, which will include golf, celebrity football and basketball games, and an auction. The event is called “Raising the Roof for Spirit and Sport.”
“We either need big donors or people buying the books,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to.”
Slowly but surely, support for his program is growing and the numbers are starting to tick upward.
Parents like Jon and Jenny DeMars are sold on the idea and have two kids in the program — Tommy, 12, and Sarah, 16. Jon met Scott at a community festival and learned about the program. That conversation led to the enrollment of Sarah and Tommy.
“My son really enjoys it,” said Jon DeMars, the boys varsity coach at Irondale High School in New Brighton who is now recruiting others to the program.
Tommy “does not want to miss [a session]. . . . He’s went to every one but one [since enrolling]. He really loves it,” he said.
Jim Wappes also has two children in the program, sons Michael, 14, and Joseph, 13. The two are students at St. Charles Borromeo School, with Michael in eighth grade and Joseph in seventh. Jim Wappes likes the program, but he especially likes the person running it.
“Kelly’s not just here to teach sports,” he said. “It’s about the whole person; it’s about the soul. It’s the physical skills, the spiritual well being, and it’s about giving back to the community — service. It’s so well balanced. . . . And, I love the fact that it’s [called] Spirit and Sport and not Sport and Spirit. It’s in the right order.”
Michael and Joseph are new to the program, but already the family has been thinking about what acts of service the boys can perform. An elderly neighbor is moving into a nursing home soon, and paying her visits is one idea they have come up with.
“This might hold our family even more accountable to really reach out to this person when she moves from our neighborhood,” said Jim’s wife, Mary. “It’s happening soon, and I’m thinking, ‘How can our family be helpful?’ ”
Though Scott is the mastermind behind the program, he is not alone when it comes to working with the youth. In fact, the venture has become somewhat of a family affair.
Three of his children help with coaching — Jeremiah, Joe and Veronica. Plus, his brother, Casey, is helping with the financial end, though he also makes appearances at the gym to see his brother’s vision unfold.
Joe, a professional basketball player for the Amico del Basquet Castellon team in Spain, recently started working in the program after finishing his season. He’s a product of his dad’s philosophy, having grown up with his coaching in both basketball and life.
“Once my dad started this organization, I said I would help out whenever I had the chance,” Joe said. “I think it’s a great concept, something that a lot of [other] people haven’t thought about.
“We [members of the Scott family] have a leadership quality, and I see it flourish when we’re trying to help these kids. The biggest obstacle is the financial part. My dad wants to build a facility, but he doesn’t have the money yet. If we can get a facility, then I can definitely see this thing flourishing.”
Just like during his college days, Kelly Scott is already thinking beyond the day when he will have his own facility for the program.
“My long-term goal is to have this across the country,” he said. “If we do this right, we can have this for seniors across the country. We can save millions of dollars in health care by getting them [seniors] the services they need so they can stay in their homes.”