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Signs of love

In ever-growing bond, Lady Dragon basketball players spread encouragement to Cambridge Warren residents

Photo submitted to the Times Observer Warren Area High School junior Teagan Paris holds up a sign for the residents of the Cambridge Home. The Lady Dragon basketball team has developed a special relationship with the residents and wanted to do something during a time when the residents aren’t allowed to have visitors.

Giving back is at the core of every strong community. In the current climate in which we live, it’s more important than ever.

In that spirit, the Warren Lady Dragons basketball program has forged a special relationship with the residents of Cambridge Warren, one that has been special for all parties involved.

“Over the last couple years we have gone to Cambridge Warren at least once a year to give back to our community and have the girls do some community service,” said head coach Lisa LaVan. “This season it blossomed into much more. We participated in their sock drive in November that brought in lots of warm socks for students of Warren County. After we did the cancer game for the late Katie Rodgers, the girls decided they still wanted to do more to give back to the community, so we decided to adopt a few ‘grandparents’ at Cambridge Warren for Christmas.

“That was a TON of fun for the girls and I. We sat with our adopted grandparents while they opened presents we got them, as well as spent time with other residents. The girls left there still wanting to do more. They wanted to do something for all the residents, so we decided to do a fun thing for all the residents for Valentine’s Day. The girls got together and made personalized valentines for each resident with sudo/crossword puzzles as well as candy. They even got sugar free candy for those that are diabetic. The residents were so happy to see the girls again a few days before Valentine’s Day!”

If you know anything about the Lady Dragons, you know they are about much more than just basketball, despite the fact that they have won a pair of District 10 titles during LaVan’s (and assistant coach John White) tenure, as well as qualified for the state playoffs three times in the last five seasons.

Photo submitted to the Times Observer Warren Area High School freshman Ella Ordiway holds up a sign of encouragement for the residents of Cambridge Warren.

It’s a program built on family, and in that spirit, the girls wanted to do something again with the residents unable to see visitors. So they made signs of encouragement and posted them on social media so that the residents could see them.

“The residents began to show their support of the girls by posting signs on social media and in their windows as the girls made their run in playoffs. It just made the bond even stronger. After our last game of the season against Char Valley, the girls and I made a plan to get back down to Cambridge as soon as possible to spend more time with some of their favorite people. That plan was halted with the state of the world around COVID-19. The girls were heartbroken and even more heartbroken to know their friends at Cambridge might be getting lonely. So that led us to our latest effort to make signs and post them on social media for all the residents there to see. Karen Lucks is amazing and welcomes us with open arms all the time!”

Here, in their own words, is what the relationship means to the girls.

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Riley Childress: “We love giving back to the community, especially those not recognized as much as they should be. The signs were made to cheer them up as they give us something to look forward to as well as put a smile on their face.”

Ruby Alburger: “I think that it is very touching that we are including everyone with our program and that it is so important to our friends at Cambridge, just as much as they are important to us. It means a lot to make someone else happy, and I am more than happy myself that I am a part of that experience.”

Teagan Paris: “The relationship with them makes me so happy. Walking in to the home and seeing their faces light up makes your day. It’s an indescribable feeling, and makes you reflect on life.”

Gracie Gatto: “It’s sad to know that our friends at Cambridge cannot have visitors and see their family during this time. Creating signs for them made me feel like we brought some happiness to them.”

Gracie Ruhlman: “The relationship means a lot and is very important to me because I love making others happy and giving back to the community.”

Kelsey Stuart: “Being a part of this basketball team has shown me that there are bigger parts of this world that some people don’t get to see. Visiting Cambridge Warren gives you a sense of joy because everyone is always so cheerful and happy to see you. The relationships you develop with these elderly people are unforgettable. It really makes you step back and reflect on who you are and who you want to become.”

Ella Ordiway: “It’s nice to see how much the residents enjoy us being there. It feels good to make a positive impact on their day and help in anyway possible.”

Miken Beers: “Visiting Cambridge is beneficial to both us and the residents. It gives us the opportunity to visit people that might not have family. I like visiting them and hearing all their stories and see them smile.”

Emma Ruhlman: “My relationship with the members of the Cambridge Home is something very important to me. Basketball is a huge part of my life but spending time with these people helps remind me that there’s more to the game than the ball and the hoop. Our community supports us so much and it’s the least we can do to support them in return.”

Cara Munksgard: “My relationship with Cambridge means a lot to me because not only is it giving back to the community, but also just giving the love and attention to the people who deserve it and need it. This relationship is important and genuine to me because when visiting the home, I don’t need validation for going there, it is something I just simply enjoy and think everyone should do.”

Carly Beers: “It’s important because it’s good for both groups. Our team learns about being thoughtful and caring beyond our teammates and immediate families. They receive support and interactions from us as a sort of extended family that might not be there otherwise.”

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As you can see, there’s a special bond there that goes beyond a mere visit or two. This is a relationship forged in love – love of family, community and each other.

“Bottom line and I know this is said a lot, but it is about more than basketball,” LaVan said. “These girls have a gift to share .. they are role models in our community and need to give back to those that can’t or to those that have given so much already!We ask a lot of our community every year in terms of monetary support.

“Our program is barely funded by the school district. We have to raise money every year to just buy new balls, equipment, uniforms, travel gear and to take the summer trips we do to improve our program against better competition in bigger cities. This is just ONE way to try to thank our community for their unbelievable support. We love our community!”

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