As another eventful week of Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation summer camp comes to a close, campers reflected on new friends and new experiences in their final night. Although getting the chance to play baseball and learn new skills on the diamond was certainly part of the week’s events, some of the most memorable moments for campers came during two unique presentations from Ernie Graham and Rachel’s Challenge speaker Cody Hodgens.
On Wednesday afternoon, campers sat in the bleachers to hear long time Foundation partner Ernie Graham share the story of his rise to college and NBA stardom, only to plummet to an unimaginable rock bottom due to drugs and alcohol. The gist of Ernie’s story is simple: without the right attitude, work ethic, and positive influences, even the most talented person can fail to succeed at what they do or enjoy best. Eventually, Ernie was able to turn the experiences of his darkest days into a useful tool to reach at-risk youth and help them avoid the mistakes that he himself had made so many years ago.
On Wednesday evening, Cody Hodgens, a speaker from the organization Rachel’s Challenge, engaged CRSF campers with the story of a remarkable young woman who tragically had her life cut short in a school shooting. Rachel Joy Scott was the first of 13 victims killed in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. However, her family chose not to carry on Rachel’s legacy by remembering the way she died but the way she lived her life: through her character as someone who practiced kindness, compassion, and acceptance of everyone.
The mission of Rachel’s Challenge comes almost directly from Rachel’s diary – “You never know how far a little kindness can go. You may just start a chain reaction.”
Cody spoke on the importance of Rachel’s rare belief of searching for the best in others and the immense impact she left on not just her immediate family and friends, but almost every single person she met—reaching out to others who were often excluded and picked on. Sharing her story and sharing his own story, Cody challenged all the campers to practice what Rachel practiced: look for the best in others, dream big, choose positive influences, speak with kindness, and start their own chain reaction.
It was an emotionally powerful evening, and hopefully will give our kids a great new perspective as the start the new school year next week.