As a foster parent for the past 20 years, Sue Rudnik and her husband, Al, are angels in their own right. But when it comes to talking about selfless acts and helping others, Sue hangs the halo on a different head. Or, more accurately, several.
Rudnik, you see, is a big fan of the Buford High School girls basketball team. And not because of their prowess on the court. Over the years, the team coached by Gene Durden has made it a tradition to sponsor children from Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS).
“It just blesses me,” what the Buford girls do, Rudnik said. Her daughter, Alysha, is a 2010 Buford High grad and played basketball for the Lady Wolves. The Buford coaching staff, used to seeing Rudnik at games with her brood — “we have four birth kids, three adopted children and we always have at least two foster children,” she said — asked what they could do to help several years ago.
That led to Rudnik asking the team to sponsor one of the foster children living with her. The team raised so much money and gifts that they were spread to other children at DFCS. And from there the traditon of sponsoring children from DFCS began, with the team deciding to forgo exchanging gifts with each other in favor of using that money for the DFCS children.
“We thought it was a neat way we could get involved and help others,” Durden said. “What better way than to help families in need. We decided that instead of getting each other gifts that we would take that money and sponsor the kids.”
Durden said that under the direction of assistant coach Melissa Green, the seniors collect the money and go shopping for the gifts. The team then gathers to wrap everything. Durden credits Green with being the perfect role model to lead the girls, who impress him with their efforts.
“It just shows a lot about our kids’ character,” Durden said. “We try to develop good basketball players, but we also want to develop kids with character. Them looking out for others makes me, as a coach, very, very proud.”
Rudnik agrees, citing the ongoing tradition.
“They continue to sponsor kids — two to four a year,” Rudnik said. “Young people who care like that and are willing to give deserve some props.
“I think it’s a selfless thing for those girls to do, and we don’t hear about that too much anymore — you just hear about the bad things with kids. To me, it’s one thing for an adult to give up a Christmas present, but it’s another thing when it’s younger people like those girls.
“I think it teaches them about community and giving back.”
It should teach us all, a thought that is fitting on this Christmas day.
Email Todd Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Wednesdays.