May 3, 2007

Students’ Visits Rekindle Love of Basketball for Care Center Resident

What may have been a random act of kindness for many turned into much more for one resident of the Scotland County Care Center.

Members of the Scotland County R-I High School career and family leadership class have spent several days at the local nursing home. The students have spent their time at the care center reading to residents, playing games and interacting with the facility’s occupants.

During the four days the class spent at the SCCC, several of the students took a particular interest in one resident, Ralph King.

Most of the kids did not realize that King was the former superintendent of their school. But what they quickly found out was that the man had a special place in his heart for sports, particularly basketball.

After a couple of visits, the idea spread among the students to present Mr. King with a basketball, a special memory of their visits.

SCR-I basketball player Valerie Oldham located a blue and white basketball, designed especially with the school’s colors. Then the class members all autographed the ball before presenting it to King on their final visit.

“It is obvious Mr. King is an avid sports fan,” said class instructor Katy Houston. “He still has some pretty good moves, as he put the basketball to use with some of the kids.”

That came as no surprise to King’s daughter, Ellen Riney.

“Dad was the superintendent of the public schools in Scotland County in the 60’s and early 70’s,” she said. “Those who were in the school at the time, especially the athletes, may remember that he was an avid sports fan, and participant. Most winter weekends he could be found at the high school gym, holding it open for anyone who wanted to play basketball. There were always enough players, in a wide range of age brackets, to form a couple of teams and play for most of the afternoon. Dad always played.”

Riney said her father’s love for the game dated back to his own playing days in high school in Hannibal and later in college at Kirksville.

King graduated from the teacher’s college in Kirksville and became a history instructor and a high school coach. After getting his master’s degree in education, he became a school administrator.

“But the love of sports never waned,” Riney said. “He continued to play basketball, tennis, baseball, and golf well into his 70’s. He also attended every athletic event he could find, high school, college, or pro, whereever he lived. Young athletes would often get some free ‘pointers’ from him after a competition, and many became friends and ‘students’ of his coaching.”

The 16 students in the career and family leadership class became students of Mr. King’s teachings in another arena, learning about the needs of nursing home residents.

Houston said the kids were all touched by King’s response to the presentation, just one of the many impacts the trips to the care center had on the students.

Members of the class are Charlie Elder, Laramie Frederick, Austin Garrett, Jenny Gordy, Kristan Kaldenberg, Betsey Kittle, Valerie Oldham, Marti Robbins, John Shiflett, Dustin Shoop, Jessica Sites, Greg Steele, Judy Stemick, Ti Waibel, Brittney Youmans and Charley Vassholz.

The class also is visiting a number of area daycares and is finalizing its random acts of kindness project at the schools.

“I am sure that the presentation of the basketball was a big event for Daddy,” Riney said. “We are very grateful that he can be at the Scotland County Care Center, where the people take such an interest in him as a person. They really do a great service, and go ‘the extra mile’ to give kind and compassionate care to my Dad.”

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