LIBERTY - The Liberty wrestling team is no stranger to community service, already creating the Liberty wrestling "Green Team" to do landscaping around the high school in the spring.
This was not enough for a few of the senior wrestlers, who wished to do something special during the team's season. They discussed an idea with coach Hadi A. Hadi, and from this came the "Cradle for Kids," an event for the benefit of Akron Children's Hospital during the Leopards' match against Jefferson on Wednesday evening. The Leopards collected toys at the gate to fill up a large sack before the match (which was canceled because Jefferson didn't show up) and also raised money beforehand to give to the Mahoning Valley branch.
Overall, they collected enough toys to fill a sizable sack and committed $3,800 to the hospital.
Tribune Chronicle / Matt Wagner
Members of the Liberty wrestling team present Jamie Petrus, development coordinator for Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley, with toys and a check. From left to right: Petrus, Liberty coach Hadi A. Hadi, Tarik Muse, Joey Leshnack and Daryl McLendon.
"This is an idea that just came up kind of randomly, talking to some of the senior wrestlers," Hadi said. "They wanted to do something during the (wrestling) season. Just brainstormed the idea with (assistant) coach (Ryan) Williams and his wife came up with the name while we were brainstorming, 'Cradles for Kids,' because cradle is a wrestling move."
Why toys? Hadi called Akron Children's Hospital Mahoning Valley and asked what they needed most, and the answer was toys, books and games for children who will spend the holiday season in the hospital.
"We're always so thankful for extra toys because there are kids in the hospital during Christmas and it means so much to them to get a toy," said Jamie Petrus, development coordinator for Akron Children's Hospital Mahoning Valley in Boardman. "Even throughout the year, we give toys to kids no matter what they're there for or what time of the year it is."
On top of the toys, the Leopards raised money to help an organization with a goal of not turning away a patient because of monetary concerns.
Each individual found his own way to raise some money for the cause. Some, like Danaryll Green, had parents ask co-workers and friends to donate, while others earned cash by doing odd jobs around their neighborhoods. Dai'Quan Greene gave up part of his earnings at Arby's to donate, and another senior member of the team, Daryl McLendon, asked his fellow worshippers at church for help.
"On our own time, we all got together," said Daquan Carter, who raised money by shovelling snow off driveways. "After practice, we all called each other up, met up, made money. Some people worked, they put money into it. They had their own ways that they made money."
McLendon said events like this build up the repetition of the program, as well as build up the community as whole.
"Just a little rep for the wrestling team because that's what we're trying to do," McLendon said. "We're trying to rebuild the Liberty wrestling and make it a strong program for future wrestlers. It's not just to build back the rep of Liberty wrestling, but to rebuild Liberty, to make it strong. For a small town, we need as much support as we can."
Greene also said the Leopards are hoping all the community work might lead to bigger crowds at wrestling matches.
"Yeah, I would say so because if they see a team that's working hard to help the community, maybe they'll come out and support us," he said.
In terms of the Leopards work for children at Akron Children's Hospital, Petrus said the initiative shown by the Liberty wrestling team is unique, as it's "kids helping other kids."
"There's nothing more special than that," Petrus said. " For kids to think of other kids while they're well and healthy really means a lot because kids right now aren't thinking of that yet."