Ray Duckler: Moving on, past the team to join another team
Emma Bradley, 13, a Bow Memorial School eighth grader who has started a sock drive called Warm Feet, Warm Hearts, enlists the help of her brother Tim Bradley, 17, in making posters for the drive at their home in Bow on November 16, 2013. The posters will hang in each wing of Emma's school, and she hopes to meet her goal of collecting 50 pairs of socks for Concord Cold Weather Shelter by the end of the drive on November 26.
(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
Emma Bradley participates in a Sunday school class taught by Marty Jenkins at South Congregational Church in Concord on November 17, 2013. The class is held in the church's library, which doubles as a place where guests of Concord Cold Weather Shelter can spend the day.
(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
Inflatable mattresses are stacked on November 17, 2013 inside a storage room at South Congregational Church in Concord, one of two locations where Concord Cold Weather Shelter operates.
(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
Emma Bradley’s walk from the coach’s office to her locker, a stretch of hallway no more than 100 feet, covered a lot of ground.
The eighth-grader at Bow Memorial School, cut from the school’s basketball team just moments before, cried as she moved toward the main entrance.
She calmed herself when a columnist approached her – ambushed her is more accurate – to learn about the sock drive she’s created to help the homeless as the weather turns harsh.
Then, after a sharp right down another hallway, after agreeing to the interview while still adjusting emotionally, Emma spoke about unselfishness, about placing life’s elements in their proper perspective, about her love for diversity and different cultures, and, of course, about her disappointment over not making the school team.
“I mean, I always knew in the back of my mind, no matter what happens, I’m not going to stop playing basketball,” said Emma, 13, standing with her mother, Kathryn, on Friday evening. “It’s not about making the team, it’s about playing basketball, so it really doesn’t matter what team I’m on, as long as I’m on a team.”
Emma has started her own team, called Warm Feet, Warm Hearts. She got the idea from a Facebook post by Bill and Miriam Watson, the directors of the Concord Cold Weather Shelter, based in the South and First Congregational churches.
The Watsons, forever searching for volunteers, are at it again, and an orientation meeting will be held Thursday night at 6 at First Church to kick off the program.
Soon, youth groups at South Church will inflate mattresses, while others will begin clearing out the basement at First Church. Doors open for the winter next month.
Even as Miriam continues to fight cancer – her recent scans have been excellent – the couple focus on the program that helps give the city a good name.
It’s early, though, and as Bill begins to call the 200 volunteers who were involved last year, he says, “I’m a little bit nervous. We’ve gotten some responses, but others don’t have shelters on their minds yet. It’s fall, and it’s still nice enough out that people don’t think that winter is right around the corner.”
Watson has long been critical of the city’s official response to homelessness. He calls the shelters “a Band-Aid solution.”
“Until the city and the 10-year program to end homelessness is implemented, there will be people injured, and there will be people dead,” Watson said. “This is a temporary solution. I think the city needs to step up and take on the issue of homelessness, period.”
He’s got an ally in Emma, and a good one at that. She’s an all-purpose individual, raised for seven years in Italy and Switzerland while her father worked as a boarding school director and educational recruiter for private schools in the states.
“A really good experience for me, just being exposed to the different cultures, everything around the world and how it’s so different from America,” Emma said. “Even though I was too young to understand all of it, I know it’s going to really help me throughout life, just being exposed to so much other than what we have in this country.”
We have homelessness, of course, and Emma says her parents have encouraged her to give.
“She appreciates how much she has,” said Kathryn Bradley, the executive director at the New Hampshire Board of Medicine. “It’s something tangible she can do to give back.”
Added Emma, “They raised me well, just to be aware of the needs of others, and to help those who don’t have as much as you do.”
Emma coordinated her effort with the Bow Memorial principal, Adam Osburn. Then she and a friend staged a promotional dialogue and had it played over the school intercom.
In the skit, Emma asks a friend if she ever had cold feet. The friend says once, when she grew nervous over asking a boy to dance.
Emma then releases her campaign message, the one about a different kind of cold feet.
“It was sort of cheesy,” Emma said, laughing.
The most visible piece to the plan is the container near the school entrance, lined with plastic because it’s Emma’s older brother’s dirty clothes hamper.
As of Friday there were five packages of socks, totaling 10 pairs. The goal is 50.
“It sounds big now,” Emma said, “but I’m confident we can reach it.”
The drive has eights days left. Emma will continue promoting her cause while attending her church group, taking piano and singing lessons, and quilting.
And then there’s basketball. Emma said she’ll most likely play for the Bow Athletic Club team, now that she’s not on the school team.
After the second and final tryout Friday, small groups of girls were called into the coach’s office to learn their fate.
The players who made the team were told first, then gathered down the hall, near the sock drive container.
When Emma appeared and walked toward them, her slow pace told the girls what had happened.
They hugged her and told her she deserved to make the team.
“Thanks,” Emma said, choking back tears. “I’ll be okay.”