Spradlin: Impact of Ingram, Ellerbe getting ‘bigger and bigger’

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This wasn’t intended to be a column. Instead, the original assignment this Saturday afternoon called for a regular news story with quotes from event participants, organizers and a few photos.

I’ve got all that, but when I sat down at the computer I felt compelled to offer you something other than a straight news story — because there’s more to this than simply what happened when and where.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Dannell Ellerbe stands with (left to right) Xavier Harrington, Jordyn Wall, Dereck Barringer and Joerail White after they were presented with their Family Fun Day trophies.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Dannell Ellerbe stands with (left to right) Xavier Harrington, Jordyn Wall, Dereck Barringer and Joerail White after they were presented with their Family Fun Day trophies.

But maybe that’s normal when people like Melvin Ingram and Dannell Ellerbe come to town. Both Richmond Senior grads and former Raider football standouts, both now have — as many of you know — moved on to the NFL; Ingram with the San Diego Chargers and Ellerbe with the New Orleans Saints. Both men, you see, came home this weekend to talk with local kids about a whole bunch of things. Some of the most important messages, in fact, weren’t even said out loud. That doesn’t mean kids like Dereck Barringer Jr. don’t hear Ingram and Ellerbe loud and clear.

“They do it to give back,” Dereck said.

Dereck also said — correctly — that Ingram and Ellerbe aim to show today’s youth that with hard work and good grades, good things can happen.

The second annual Family Fun Day on Saturday was, by the very wording, not the first time Ingram has returned and given back to Richmond County youth. Nor can Ellerbe’s last 12 months of service to Richmond County — its senior residents and youth alike — be ignored.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com A young man admires his trophy.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
A young man admires his trophy.

About a year ago this time, Ingram and his Melvin’s Mission foundation spurred the first Family Fun Day at Hamlet Memorial Park. Kids from across the state traveled to Hamlet to see if they could reach the top of the climbing wall and bounce in as many inflatables as possible.

Nearly a month later, Ellerbe returned to Rockingham and welcomed some 200 boys and girls from across the region to his football camp at Richmond Senior High School. Throughout a very hot afternoon, the kids learned about being a role model, teamwork, gutting through a tough workout on a hot day and more.

In November, Ellerbe formed a partnership with the local office of the Department of Social Services, the Richmond County Aging Services and Fatz Cafe to provide 85 Thanksgiving meals to area seniors. Ellerbe and his wife posed for pictures with everyone who asked; throughout the morning, Ellerbe’s infectious smile never left his face.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com A great time for a great play - look at the clock in the background. Click on image for a larger version.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
A great time for a great play – look at the clock in the background. Click on image for a larger version.

Ellerbe spent a few more days in Richmond County that weekend and celebrated his 29th birthday while in town. And only a month later, he took care of Christmas for 59 kids — the number matching that on his jersey while playing for the Miami Dolphins. For as long as necessary in Walmart early on Dec. 22, Ellerbe and his wife walked around with the children and watched them pick out what they wanted. Most of the kids thought of more than themselves and made sure to get something for family members, too.

It was more than a show of money for Ellerbe and his family; it was a demonstration of his commitment to care for others less fortunate. Ellerbe, after all, didn’t grow up rich. And while many read of his five-year, $35 million contract he signed with the Miami Dolphins after he and his Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII.

Ellerbe said it was Ingram’s idea to add a basketball tournament this weekend. The Family Fun Day at Hamlet Memorial Park went from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Ellerbe said he and Ingram had 500 shirts prepared and all of them were distributed.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Melvin Ingram made sure he was accessible any time kids wanted to talk.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Melvin Ingram made sure he was accessible any time kids wanted to talk.

Starting at 5 p.m., fans of Ingram and Ellerbe moved over to the Richmond Senior High School gymnasium for the basketball tournament. There were only four teams, but it was spirited play — and real basketball. The first two games went 50-42 and 62-55 (the latter in overtime).

In between the games, Ingram and Ellerbe made sure to recognize  11 youth who’d been a part of the festivities all day with participation trophies. Dereck was a part of the group, along with friends Joerail White, Jordyn Wall, Xavier Harrington and Jamari Broady.

Joerail, Dereck and Xavier are ready to be Hamlet Middle School eighth-graders this fall; Jordyn will be at the Ninth Grade Academy while Jamari is preparing to enter the sixth grade. They all play sports — specifically, football, and they all have grand ideas of following in the footsteps of Ingram and Ellerbe.

For their part, the two NFL professionals are not making it look easy. They’re telling any young people who will listen it takes a lot of work, and a lot of sweat, and more than a few good grades to stay on the field.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

The message given by Ingram and Ellerbe goes far beyond the money; to the youth of Richmond County, it’s that these two men who have every right and opportunity to put Richmond County in their rearview mirror continue to come home and make a difference.

But that’s not the direction it appears Ingram and Ellerbe are headed. They’re not winding down; they’re just getting started.

“Hopefully,” Ellerbe said of Family Fun Day and the basketball tournament, “it gets bigger and bigger.”

As word gets out, and as the generosity of these two men and their family persists, that’s likely to happen. You know those 500 UnderArmor shirts? It has a resounding, lasting message the kids — on even their worst days — can have at home as a reminder of a bigger, better world.

“Together we stand.”

And that’s why this story is a column instead of a story. It was a message I couldn’t convey in anything but an opinion piece. I hope you forgive the intrusion.

Kevin Spradlin is managing editor of The Pee Dee Post. He can be reached at 910-331-4130 or peedeepost@gmail.com

 

Filed in: Education, Featured News, Hamlet, Latest Headlines, Opinion, Outdoors, Rockingham, Sports

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