By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
This past weekend, the Crestwood Red Devils traded their athletic equipment for yard tools.
Student-athletes across all sports volunteered their time to remove the blanketed autumn-colored leaves from yards throughout Mantua as part of an annual community-outreach project that has become a Red Devils tradition.
The leaf-cleanup day is coordinated by the Crestwood All-Sports Boosters and is designed to help community members that may not be able to keep up with all of the yard work that can become overwhelming in the fall.
“I believe it is important to teach our children to give back to their community,” Booster Club President Niki Blasiole said. “It is so nice for the student-athletes to give up part of their weekend to help homeowners in their community. In athletics, we ask so much of our community for support, but this is the one time that student-athletes give and do not expect anything in return.”
The warm weather that hovered over Northeast Ohio helped set the stage for a productive day, with an extremely high number of volunteer players and coaches — and also with the help of Al Clayman and Ryan Dustman, who bring their large lawn equipment to assist.
“We start at 11 a.m., and we go until all the houses and properties are done,” Blasiole said. “This year, we were done in a little over an hour, but I know at least one year, recently, we actually ran out of daylight. It really helped this year that we had such a great turnout of student-athletes, coaches and parents — and great weather.”
Blasiole said that the properties are identified ahead of time and are assigned accordingly to teams based on the property size and team size.
Then it is time to get to work.
And the appreciation becomes mutual.
“Most often, the homeowner, or their family, will come outside toward the end to say thank you. Sometimes the homeowner will prepare cookies or muffins or give a monetary donation, but none of that is necessary at all,” Blasiole said.
According to longtime Crestwood coach Josh Jakacki, he feels the student-athletes are the real winners for the lessons learned.
“We remind them the tyou can’t be leaders if you aren’t willing to serve others,” Jakacki said. “They show up every year and far exceed our expectations. At the end of the day, our school is only as strong as our community. I hope individuals realize the impact this community has on our student-athletes.”