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Help: Give A Little, Take A Little

by on November 12, 2009 7:00 AM

Before I get too deep into this week’s column, I want give a shout out to the PSU students for both their attendance and early arrival at last week's game.

You guys did your part and were certainly loud and energized! I hope you will stick with the team and be true fans through thick and thin.

Saturday is Senior Day, and we have some great young men who have given a lot of time and passion to entertain us and make us proud. Come out and give them the proper send off as they come through that tunnel for the final time as players. Daryll Clark, Sean Lee, Jared Odrick, Jeremy Boone, Dennis Landolt, and their senior teammates have given their all.

They need our help and support right now! 

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That lets me segue into today’s subject, which all of us sometimes need and sometimes give: help.

It’s a simple, four-letter word, but it can change the lives of people, whether they are on the giving or receiving end.

There are varying degrees of help, which can range from the occasional “atta boy” or “atta girl,” to providing “tough love.” There are also those challenges that require professional intervention.

It’s all about helping one another and not being afraid to ask for help when it’s needed.

We all need mentors, and we all need to mentor others. We are all coaches (even if we don’t realize it), and we all need to be coached from time to time. We have all had someone in our lives who made an impact that shaped us, transformed us, or just gave us that little nudge at the time we needed it most. And we have all probably been an advisor, mentor or coach to someone who needed our help.  

With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching and the holidays right around the corner, this is the time when many people should take stock of their many blessings and reach out to those in need, and not just those with financial or health issues.

Sometimes it’s a friend, spouse, co-worker, teenager or college student who may be in need of advice or support. Maybe they won’t admit it, but if you see signs of depression or uncharacteristic behavior from someone you know and care about, you can choose to ignore the signs or you can act.

Or maybe it’s you who needs a friend, a colleague or a professional to help you cope with life. Sooner or later, we all need to swallow our pride, check our egos at the door and admit we may need help as well.  

So why am I on this kick? Well, a couple of events in my life have reminded me that we all need someone there for us who cares enough to offer to help or make us realize we need help.

Everything from my niece looking for a summer accounting internship and a nephew struggling to select a field of study at college to a friend dealing with a son who has relapsed into a pattern of destructive behavior, another fighting inoperable cancer and several who have lost jobs in the recent economic downturn.  

I have also been surrounded by some of the most giving people I have ever known. They work with the local food bank, help raise money for Coaches vs. Cancer, Young Life Centre County and the United Way, and volunteer to help the Second Mile Kids and to mentor high school and college students.

Both lists can go on and on.

A good friend of mine, Cliff Benson (Class of  1971), wanted to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate from the inner city, kids with whom he had very little in common. All he needed was a vehicle with which to make it all happen.

The rest is pretty amazing.

Cliff never played organized hockey and didn’t really become a hockey fan until he went to a Penguins Stanley Cup game with his wife after re-locating from Miami to Pittsburgh.  

But he and a few other motivated folks (including former Pens star Joey Mullin, who grew up in Hell’s Kitchen in NYC) applied for and received a grant from the NHL to start “Hockey in the Hood.”  

The mission is to build self-esteem and develop character by surrounding these young men and women with people who care about them and will push them.  

The Pittsburgh program now boasts 150 kids from the city and the suburbs, and it sends teams to the NHL Diversity Tournament in Detroit to join teams from Alaska to Boston.

Howard Smith, head of hockey operations and head coach, is the front man for the on-ice operations. He grew up in the tough Hill District neighborhood of Pittsburgh and spent his teenage years where I was born, in East Liberty (or ‘sliberty as we knew it).  

A career military man in the U.S. Navy, Howard now works in Veterans Affairs in the Pittsburgh Health System. His passion, though, is HITH and helping young people see the benefits of hard work, teamwork and disc

ipline. 

Howard’s son Chris is a sophomore majoring in bio-medical engineering at Penn State, and he plays intramural hockey. Chris volunteers his time to help others learn the game he has learned to love.

He has an “attitude of gratitude” that pays back those who have helped him become the terrific young man he is today. He and his father are helping others through a common passion for a sport they love.

Do you need help? Then act on it and get past any embarrassment or pride issues. Are you able to help? Then get into the action habit and help someone.

My father taught me a lot of lessons in his 50-plus years of coaching. Perhaps the one that resonates with me daily is some advice he gave me when I was just 11 years old. He said, “someone has to care.”  

I hope you will care enough to help someone today and every day.



From ice hockey to Intercollegiate Athletics and Smeal, JoeBa has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities. Battista was an influential player in the effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley. He is now Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Buffalo Sabres.
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