The practice plan for the Ottawa Hills girls basketball team recently has included working on shooting, dribbling, passing, defense - and cooking breakfast.
The Green Bears served breakfast at St. Paul's Community Center downtown on Jan. 23.
"We've always attempted to do some type of service project or volunteer project," said Sean Mercer, who is in his ninth season as the team's coach. "We want our girls to realize that basketball is much bigger than playing a game."
The girls put together a menu that included scrambled eggs with bacon and sausage as well as fruit, muffins, and doughnuts along with orange and apple juices and milk.
"We wanted to provide a big, lavish breakfast for some people who don't always get that every day," said Gabrielle Vitale, a senior on the team. "It was a chance for us to bond as a team, but it also was a chance to brighten someone's day with an act of kindness."
The team's day began at 8 a.m. when they met at the school. They started cooking at St. Paul's at 8:30 and began serving food at 9. That lasted until 10:30, at which point they began to clean up the kitchen.
"This was something different that we all did together," said senior Laura Brewster. "We were all up in the morning to cook the eggs and bacon and to cut muffins and oranges. And seeing how much this meant to them made me appreciate the things we were able to do."
The girls found the experience to be an eye-opener.
"I knew that these folks didn't have some of these things every day," Brewster said. "For example, we brought real milk, and I was surprised to find out these people don't have that every day. I had a good feeling after we were done."
Vitale agreed, adding, "This definitely made me realize how much we take for granted some basic things - things like have a big breakfast in the morning. Walking in, I think I expected the people to look different. But these people looked like everyone else.
"The thing I remember was the gratitude we received. The people we served all seemed to have smiles on their faces, and a lot of people said 'Thank you.'•"
The Green Bears capped the day with a lopsided win over Cardinal Stritch that night, and Mercer said the work that morning may have played a role.
"The game seemed to go really well because the girls were on such a high - they seemed to feel really good about themselves," he said.
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