Local Hero

by Blake Baker

The Ohio State University’s Department of Athletics hosts more than 600 underprivileged Columbus youth every summer during its month-long LiFEsports summer camp. By organizing competition among peers, the program teaches children the values that come with it – self-control, effort, teamwork and responsibility, to name a few.

They may be learning how to play a new sport. They may be learning how to work within a team. In any case, learning the importance of existing in a community and contributing to it is LiFEsports’ main goal.

Malik Harrison, a former LiFEsports camper himself, served as a summer intern with the program as a part of Bucks Go Pro. The senior Buckeye football player is proof the program’s philosophy works.

“It’s always great for our kids to see someone that grew up just like them and see them succeeding,” said Becky Wade-Mdivanian, LiFEsports’ Director of Operations. “It’s great for our kids to connect with student-athletes, especially one like Malik, and see how they can give back to their community.”

"Giving them this knowledge now, that I wish I would’ve had when I was younger, hopefully they take it in and be better than me ... They always tell me, ‘I’m trying to be like you, Malik.’ Nah, you don’t want to be like me. You want to be better than me."

As a result, Harrison’s community regularly reciprocates that support by showing up Saturdays to see one of Ohio State’s native sons.

“The whole city comes out to watch me play. It’s very special,” he said. “That’s always been my motto. That’s one of the reasons why I stayed here.”

Not only that, but the Walnut Ridge High School graduate “can come back to the community and do things like this.” He’s proud of his involvement with the program he grew up through, and he proved just how important a resource his relationship with the youth can be.

“Malik knew how he conducted himself was going to determine these kids’ experience,” said Ryan Stamper, Ohio State football’s Assistant Athletic Director for Player Development. “His dedication is extremely high, and he knew these kids were going to have a great summer if Malik Harrison did a great job on his internship. He was committed to it and made it happen.”

As a senior leader for his team, Harrison sets the example for his peers. As a devoted intern and a voice representing children who could really use one, he sets an even more impactful example for the next generation growing up just like he did.

“He makes sure the first and second grade Malik Harrisons in Columbus or whatever other community have the same opportunities that he had,” Stamper said.

For LiFEsports’ campers, he’s become a local hero, and still having a great time doing it.

Just ask Stamper. “I’d say things are going pretty well for Malik Harrison.”