Catholic Charities St. Vincent’s School for Boys serves boys 7 to 17, many of whom struggle with emotional disturbances resulting from parental abuse and neglect. Recreation supervisor Rich King, a 21-year veteran of Catholic Charities, had been using the same basketball uniforms that the program has owned since 1997. Steve Compagno, the veteran basketball coach at Larkspur’s Redwood High School, has been donating used equipment on to his friend King. He was at St. Vincent’s gym delivering balls last November, and noticed the youngsters’ less-than-ideal equipment. He was so moved by the mission of the program and need for new equipment that he assigned his varsity boys’ basketball players to serve as mentors for the less fortunate youngsters from the residential treatment home in San Rafael.
On the first meeting in 2013, each Redwood player handed a bag to each of the 13 players from the St. Vincent’s eighth grade CYO team—each one containing new shoes, socks, jerseys with the branded “EAGLES” logo, and more. The Redwood players and coaches show up for St. Vincent’s games, cheer loudly for the team, and the St. Vincent’s kids sit behind the team bench at Redwood games and join in team rituals. Compagno said his coaching philosophy is to make every player feel important, no matter his skill. He sees the St. Vincent’s players in the same light. “The initial handshakes have turned into hugs,” he said. “Everybody wants to feel like somebody cares about them.” Kent Eagelson, Division Director of Youth Residential Services and Executive Director of St. Vincent’s, said, “A lot of these kids don’t have anybody rooting for them from their families, but here is a group that has kind of adopted them. It has raised their self-esteem, their positive outlook—and now they also have another activity to enjoy, which is to go to Redwood games.”
“I have a kid who said, ‘I want to go to Redwood and play basketball,’” said King. “They often don’t have those aspirations. That alone is a victory,” said King. “You are talking about young boys and trust and hope,” said Compagno. “That’s what we are trying to give them,” said King. “Hope.”