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When It Means More

The softball team gathers in a hallway to sing to the residents.
The softball team gathers in a hallway to sing to the residents.

When does a Christmas carol mean more?

Of course, we know it means a lot around this time of year. You hear them as early as the day after Thanksgiving on the radio -- maybe earlier even – or perhaps in your own head before they even hit the airwaves.

Still – when does it mean more?

For many of us, it may mean more when it comes from the heart. A local church group spending time on their Thursday night to visit. A well-known neighborhood family that drops by every year.

Yet still – when does it mean more?

For some people in Ashland – it means more when there's bats, gloves and softballs involved.

"You never know what point a person is at in their life," said Corey Reed, Activities Assistant at Ashland Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. "Everybody doesn't have family and friends dedicated to their well-being and happiness, so it's very easy to feel between the cracks or forgotten." 

Last Wednesday, Randolph-Macon's softball team decided to ensure that any cracks were filled at the Center when they went caroling down the hallways, bringing Christmas cheer to the residents of the 190-person building.

"We wanted to do something different," said Assistant Softball Coach Amanda Sopko. "We talked with some of the older girls and after having the coaches meeting at the beginning of the year, Athletic Director Jeff Burns said think of some team bonding activities. So we said let's go out into the community and do something."

"The residents of the nursing home were cheering and singing along and by the end were basically directing us in the dining hall and requesting which songs they preferred, so I think they had a wonderful time," said senior Harley Jones (Brodnax, Va. / Brunswick).

Coming off of an impressive 2017 campaign, gaining the most wins in program history (35) and hosting a Regional in the NCAA Tournament, the team looked for ways to reconnect with the community, even in the offseason.

"We know Ashland supports the softball program after having a really good year last year," said freshman Kayley Scott (Henrico, Va./Lee-Davis HS). "It was a nice way to step back out into the community and do something different that not a lot of teams have the opportunities to do.

Outside of the connection to the community, the caroling experience also offered the Yellow Jackets a way to reconnect with each other. It's not the only way that the team has come together in the offseason in recent weeks.

"For a lot of girls on the team, caroling and singing in particular isn't their strong suit but it gave everyone a chance to be a little vulnerable and get out of their comfort zone which I think draws people closer together," Jones said.

The team also bonded over their efforts on the field, preparing for the 2018 season.

"We had our last conditioning before we go home for winter break," said junior Kerstin Roth (Yorktown, Va. / Grafton ). "Coach Sopko met with the upper classmen and asked us what would be a good way to end conditioning for the fall semester and a few of us agreed that doing a competition and splitting up into teams would be fun and I think that was a great way to get team chemistry going. We were cheering for each other and we were having so much fun while we were doing it."

The team bonding served as a special experience for freshman players, who are learning the ropes and beginning to understand what Randolph-Macon softball is all about and what the program means to the Ashland community.

"The upperclassmen are really helpful here. They're really supportive too," Scott said, adding that besides the caroling and conditioning games, the team is bonding by "[having a] Christmas gift exchange at one of the freshman's house."

"I think it's looking more into it than the big picture," said Sopko. There's more than softball. It's getting together, build more team chemistry. Helping the community. I think that's all really good things."

For the residents of the nursing home, the outreach efforts can mean more to them than the surface value.

"I always say more than you'd imagine," Reed said. "When people come in and donate their time and/or goods and services those 30 minutes to an hour out of your day gives a lasting impression on the residents for months and years. Our residents love visitors and activities so it's always a pleasure to be able to accommodate [that]."

"I think it helps us just because we know we're doing well – not just sports wise but academically, we're pushing each other and in the community we're pushing each other to do better things to give back to what Ashland has given to us," said Roth. "So I think that is feeding back into us and seeing that interaction. People knowing what we were doing.  We wanted to be there."

To see more photos from the visit, click HERE