Dick Schafrath encourages Village Network youth to 'be a team player'

July 1, 2013

Dick Schafrath encourages Village Network youth to 'be a team player'

By LINDA HALL Staff WriterPublished: July 1, 2013 4:00AM

WOOSTER -- Former Cleveland Browns football player and state senator Dick Schafrath shared stories of his life and left The Village Network youth with some valuable words to take to heart.

"I can relate to you more than you think I do," said Schafrath, who said, like them, he had "nothing handed to me."

He grew up on a farm on the south side of Wooster, where he lived in two rooms with five siblings, his mother and father.

Schafrath recalled he didn't even know what football was when he became a student at Wooster High School, but learned to love it and every other sport because, he said with a chuckle, he loved being able to use a shower, something he didn't have at home.

For the most part, he didn't miss modern conveniences; he'd never seen any, he told Celebration Day guests.

Schafrath, who played football for Ohio State University and the Browns, shared other adventures, including wrestling an 11-foot tall, 860-pound bear, running non-stop for 66 miles from the Cleveland football stadium to Wooster High School's Maurer Field and canoeing across Lake Erie at its widest point.

He is hoping to simulate a Pony Express ride across Ohio for the 200th anniversary of Ohio in conjunction with the Ohio Historical Society.

"I learned a work ethic from my dad," said Schafrath, acknowledging the disadvantage of those not deriving the benefit of a father's guidance.

Schafrath shared three of his own pieces of advice, beginning with his belief that "who you associate with in life is going to affect your life the most."

Secondly, "be responsible for your life," he urged. "Don't blame somebody else for what happens."

As part of that tenet, he advised the youth to "develop good habits ... (and) believe God will be with you."

Finally, he said, "Be a team player."

"Good things will happen if you work hard enough," he said.

"I've been so impressed with the kids I've met here today," Schafrath said. "Kids out here (have) a good attitude. They want to change."

K. William Bailey, who introduced Schafrath, said he "has been a good friend to The Village."

CEO Richard Graziano told the audience, "Every day we come into work it's all about the kids."

He said his own son, R.J., has picked up on the mission of TVN, after asking his dad "about the work we do here," Graziano said.

"It was really hard for him to understand," he said, that the youth on campus are not living with their families or in their home communities.

When he discovered many of them can't even go home for Christmas, he said, "That's really sad," and began to think up ways, like becoming pen pals, he could try to help.

"It's nice for (them) to know there are people who care," his son told him.

To the staff members, volunteers, board members and foster families in the audience, Graziano said, "The impact you have on these kids is invaluable."

"That's why we decided to focus the strategic plan on the kids," Graziano said.

"We want to be life-long partners with these kids," he said. "We're looking to develop transitional housing programs and outpatient programs (for them after they leave TVN)."

He wants the youth under the care of TVN to know whether they are "18 or 80, they can pick up a phone and make a phone call, (knowing) we'll be there to help them."

"We want to promote teamwork with the kids," Graziano said.

"Every day I see the kids, I see their growth," he said, pointing out that he has "probably learned more from them than they have from him."

The 19-year-old TVN youth speaker, identified only by his first name, said TVN had helped him to change from a life of negativity and risky behaviors to a positive one.

He called the staff "helpful, caring and non-judgmental."


Reporter Linda Hall can be reached at 330-264-1125, Ext. 2230, or lhall@the-daily-record.com

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