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Members of Aurora University's Spartans football team have a new group of pals with whom they like to hang out for lunch. Spartans Coach Rick Ponx explained that several months ago, he'd been invited to address the men's group at Briarwood Healthcare at GreenFields of Geneva. "I had a great time and said, 'let's make this a monthly thing and next time, I'll bring some players.' We went again in October and the players loved it. They enjoyed it and wanted to do it again. The residents loved it too, and asked that next time, we bring cheerleaders as well."
Ponx said that he is passionate about community service, and has dedicated himself to instilling the same trait in his players. "Leadership stems out of service. The more we get involved with service, the more we learn how to lead," he said.
The men's group at Briarwood Healthcare at GreenFields, gets together frequently for lunch, programs and meals. When the Spartans visit, the residents are interested in hearing the tales of the football team, as well as sharing their own stories. "Our guys bridged the gap from young to old. The residents asked a lot of questions, and we were asking them questions and listening to them too," said Ponx. "Everyone really had a great time."
In addition to their visits, GreenFields will also be the beneficiary of the football players' work. "If GreenFields needs something, there will always be a group of guys available to help," Ponx said.
The coach was unsure as to what to expect when he first visited the retirement community. 'When we walked through the building, everyone was smiling and saying 'hi!' It didn't feel like walking into a retirement community. It felt like walking into someone's home," he said.
"When our students leave college, if they want to go on into leadership roles and be successful in their jobs, we need to have taught them to lead by fostering relationships," said Ponx. "Service work is a great way to do that."