Jan. 11, 2016
By: Chris Cullum, Ohio State Athletics Communications
A few days before the ground was covered with snow and the air had a biting chill to it, the weather in Columbus was nothing short of pleasant. Nearing 50 degrees with the sun shining, not to mention within days of ringing in the New Year, was actually nothing short of wonderful.
That perfect day was the backdrop for something else wonderful: a group of people, including several Ohio State student-athletes, getting together to do something special for those in need.
This past Thursday, January 7, in the University Suite at Ohio Stadium, the Ohio State diving team worked with students from Dublin’s postsecondary job training program for students with disabilities. The large group collectively made about 50 scarves to take to the James Cancer Hospital.
The program, known officially as the POWER Plus program, is a community-based postsecondary job training program for young adult students with disabilities. POWER Plus works with a student’s employability and life skills to customize a program of transition and growth through job training and related experiences.
One of the staff members working with the program, Katie Sochor, is pretty familiar with the Buckeye divers; her husband, Justin Sochor, is the head coach.
“It’s been fun!” Katie said about working with her husband while planning the day’s events, the first time the pair has teamed up for something like this. “Obviously he has the connections here and I have the students to bring here, so working together seemed easy.”
“She’s a mastermind with these types of projects,” Sochor said of his wife. “Plus getting our team involved with the community, it’s very rewarding. I’m very lucky to have someone like Katie to facilitate these types of events.”
According to the program’s website, POWER Plus facilitates the transition and self-advocacy needs of the students to prepare them for life after graduation. Students’ individual strengths and interests are aligned with service learning, volunteering, job training and employment opportunities throughout the year.
Katie is in her ninth year working for POWER Plus, and during her time there she estimates they’ve made thousands of gifts for patients at the James, in addition to a variety of businesses around Dublin. Having the opportunity to work beside Ohio State student-athletes, not to mention from her husband’s team, and with the backdrop of Ohio Stadium thrown in as well, did create a little extra buzz around this day in particular.
“Absolutely,” Katie said when asked about the special day. “That’s the goal, we want our students to be with their same-aged peers.”
When asked the obvious question of how the two brought their respective groups together, both acknowledged it was a combination of sorts: Katie and her staff members are always looking for people to work with and coach Sochor was looking for something his team could do, specifically something that would help benefit the James. Clearly it was a natural fit.
“Our team works hard to find ways to engage with the community like this and we’ve been trying to get more involved with the James,” Coach Sochor said. “She’s always looking for people to help, we’re always looking for ways to help. It was a perfect match.”
From the sports side of things, Sochor, who is in the midst of his third season at the helm of Ohio State’s diving team, has rebuilt the team in his own image since taking over. This year’s team is comprised completely of freshmen and sophomores, showing that he truly has built the current program with his own people.
Watching his student-athletes expertly make scarves while sharing smiles and laughs with his wife’s students, Sochor has but one answer when asked if he’s succeeded in his goal to fill his team with the right people.
“Yes,” he said, quite emphatically. “We have the most wonderful people on this team. As far as their citizenship, their respect for the community, their pride for this school, their willingness to reach out and help, it all shows the kind of community we’ve built amongst our team. I think these student-athletes really fit into that mold. They work hard in the pool, they work hard out of the pool, and they work really hard for other people.”
“Everybody’s all in. We don’t have a single person in our program who doesn’t want to be involved with things like this.”
He continued: “Having things planned like this where the whole team can get involved, and having a team that’s willing to do these types of things and motivated to do these types of things, is important. So now that we’ve identified the right members with the right attitudes we can really reach out and do these types of things.”
All the scarves that were made will be delivered to patients at the James by some of these very same students who also volunteer their time at the hospital.
The day concluded with everyone heading down onto the turf at the Shoe and taking a few pictures near the block “O” at midfield. By that time there were shadows creeping out from the south endzone, early reminders that the day was closer to its end than its beginning.
However, if his earlier words were any indication, it appears that days such as these for Coach Sochor and his squad are, in fact, just beginning.