Strong for Others

by Blake Baker

The Ohio State University Department of Athletics’ status in college sports is showcased by the numbers, as more than 1,000 student-athletes spanning 36 sports compete 10 months out of the year.

Its support for the Columbus community is showcased the same way, as more than 600 underprivileged children from 40 different zip codes visit the university to learn and play sports for a month each summer.

Those numbers are according to Becky Wade-Mdivanian, Director of Operations at LiFEsports, a program dedicated to improving the social, physical, and educational development of Columbus youth.

“About 80 percent of our kids are living at about 200 percent of the poverty line or below,” she said. “For many of them, it’s the only opportunity they may get to be on campus, to be at a sports camp and to enjoy these great facilities.”

As a result, Ohio State hosts four weeks worth of physical activity regiments, teamwork building exercises and (perhaps most importantly) free meals.

The program’s summer camp teaches its kids self-control, effort, teamwork and social responsibility in hopes they learn to positively impact their own communities.

“They learn how to work as a group on the playing field together as well as the idea that the world is bigger than them,” Wade-Mdivanian said. “They learn this idea of giving back to their community, and it’s important.”

Haley Walker-Robinson, a senior Buckeye soccer player, helped reinforce the message this summer. A Vista, Calif. native, she gained valuable professional experience in Columbus as a Bucks Go Pro intern with LiFEsports.

"As someone who grew up in a single-parent household, a lot of these kids have that. I know my story is way different than theirs, but being able to relate on some level to them is awesome."

While her primary duties existed behind-the-scenes – filing paperwork, tracking attendance – she put the values into practice with a commitment level that’s front and center.

“She’s super dependable,” Wade-Mdivanian said of Walker-Robinson’s work in the LiFEsports office. “It’s not the glamorous side of camp, but it’s the part that has to get done.”

The seemingly more glamorous perspective is that of camp counselors, a role in which Walker-Robinson also thrived.

Her ultimate goal is to someday guide her own organization on the same community-driven ideals, so the counselor role is only a stepping stone. As an intern, she exuded her ambition by fostering short yet significant friendships with kids who need it most.

“It’s great to see those small relationships build to let the kids know that people care about them and that there’s role models here for them at Ohio State,” Wade-Mdivanian said.

Walker-Robinson gets the role model trait naturally. Her mother and grandmother instilled in her an ability to influence positivity, to inspire the best from herself and others, to imitate their own caretaking tendencies.

“Having those strong personalities in my life helped make me the person I am today,” Walker-Robinson said. “They’re really good at being strong for others, and I plan on doing that for people come any situation. I wouldn’t be that way if I didn’t have them as my role models.”

Using her own experience, Walker-Robinson spent the early summer strengthening the experiences of Columbus youth who truly need it.

In that time, she proved to LiFEsports, its campers, her role models and herself how strong a source for support she’s become.