PLYMOUTH — There is a great focus on “servant leadership” around most high school athletic programs these days and as a result of that more and more teams are organizing mission trips overseas that involve their particular sport.
Plymouth high school has had several teams that have taken such trips and the latest is the Lady Pilgrim basketball team who took a group of girls to the Dominican Republic to reach out and play some basketball in the process.
It’s the second trip the girls have made in the last four years. This time around 13 Plymouth natives made the trip — Kenzie Dejarnett, Emma Cool, Sara Hunter, Alaina Clady, Lindsay Janus, Tallulah Gault, Sydni Weir with coaching and support from Dave Duncan, Austen Black, Tim and Ginny Craiger and John Gerard.
“I know they went when I was a freshman but I didn’t go on that one,” said Alaina Clady one of the players who helped organize the trip. “I mentioned something to our volleyball coach about making a mission trip because I’d heard of other teams doing it and I mentioned something to Sydni (Weir) about it and she just took off with it. She went to our athletic department, talked to the coaches and really took the initiative on it.”
“Both of us have wanted to go on a mission trip since freshman year and time just got by and we never did,” said Weir. “It was November and I asked (Athletic Director) Mr. (Michael) Delp if we could go on a mission trip. He thought it was too late to plan it since it usually took a year to put everything together but he said if I could figure it out we could go.”
Weir and Clady showed their problem solving skills and put the trip — fundraising and planning — together, and teamed up with an organization called Score International that specializes in such trips. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I’ve been on a couple of mission trips before with my parents to Haiti and South Dakota,” said Clady. “I love the mission field and I have a lot of interest in that area. Our team wanted to help people and volunteer because we felt that was important. It was a great opportunity for us.”
“This was my first one,” said Weir of the trip. “For the most part it was what I expected but it was a lot nicer than I imagined it. The place we stayed (Score Internationals Dominican headquarters) was really nice and the food was really good.”
“It was very similar to Haiti but very different from anything we know around here,” said Clady. “There is a lot of poverty but the people are really loving there and happy despite not having a lot. It’s a beautiful country but the economy is very poor.”
In spite of some of the frightening stories that have recently come out of the Dominican in resort areas, the girls had no concerns.
“I felt very safe while we were there,” said Clady. “I know there were people before we left telling us we shouldn’t go but I felt very safe when we were there.”
The team had a chance to visit with girls at two orphanages while they were in the Dominican, visit with the elderly at a nursing home, distribute food in some of the villages and visit a school.
“The owner of the orphanage we went to on the first day was really nice, she was amazing,” said Weir. “The other orphanage we visited was nice too. The owners were really nice and very loving of the kids there.”
“They all were so loving,” she said. “At the orphanages all the girls would run out to us and jump into our arms, they would be teaching us games and things. Everybody we met was very good to us.”
Except maybe on the court, taking on the Dominican U16 girls basketball national team.
“They were pretty good,” said Clady. “I think they beat us by 50 points. The other teams were pretty close to us. We had a couple buzzer beaters. But I guess we’re used to that.”
In spite of the chance to play teams from another country there is one thing that will stand out in the memory of every girl that played there.
“How hot it was,” said Clady. “I think that’s the hardest I’ve ever sweat before.”
“We knew going down that there wouldn’t be air conditioning,” said Weir. “The talent ranged a lot but it was a lot of fun. Everybody was very nice to us.”
There is another part of the trip that will stand out in the memory of everyone who went.
“We need to be more grateful for what we have,” said Clady. “We have so much to appreciate here and we take that for granted.”
“Be thankful for what you have here,” said Weir. “There they don’t have anything. Don’t take anything for granted. I think every one of us realized that.”