Sean Lee didn’t miss his cellphone when he and his teammates worked on a community service project converting a closed 18th-century Quaker church into a two-family house in Chappaqua through the Fuller Center for Housing Dec. 1.
A weekend trip of faith, community service and basketball Lee shared with his teammates and coaches on the Our Lady of Lourdes High School boys’ varsity basketball squad more than made up for the loss of phone privileges.
The players turned in their phones before leaving Poughkeepsie Nov. 30, which coach Jim Santoro requires they do before boarding the bus for road games. Instead of being focused on small screens, the athletes spent more time communicating with each other during the trip to Westchester County and Long Island.
“We came into the weekend as friends and we ended up leaving as brothers,” said Lee, a freshman.
“It was weird not having our phones, but this weekend showed we really don’t need phones. I have great teammates to bond with.”
The Warriors slept over in the basement of Holy Family Church in New Rochelle Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 and worked all day on their community service project.
The players were separated into groups to rake leaves, move hundreds of pieces of lumber, and cut and screw the wood. They built a scaffold and placed plastic insulation on the outside of the Quaker church to keep the heat inside for workers to stay warm during the winter months.
Five players also assisted an elderly couple in the neighborhood remove two fallen trees, including one that had toppled onto their car during a storm.
Later that day, the team attended Mass at Holy Family, held a shootaround at Iona College and enjoyed a team dinner before returning to Holy Family.
“We got back to the church around 10. They had all these plans to watch movies, had the board games out and had all this stuff they wanted to do. By 10:30, they were out cold. They were wiped out,” Santoro said.
“It’s a long day. The kids don’t complain. They get right to work, and anything we ask them to do, they do it. The only thing they ask is when is lunch.”
The next morning, Lourdes traveled to Long Island for a scrimmage at Manhasset High School, where Santoro is a graduate.
The story actually began on Long Island in 2012. Adam Santoro, a former player of Santoro’s, asked his old coach if the team was available to help families affected by Superstorm Sandy. Lourdes was on Long Island to play Manhasset on a December weekend that began with 20 children and six adults being killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The Warriors played their game on a Saturday and worked with Virginia’s House of Hope to assist the people of Breezy Point, Queens, the next day.
“We saw the complete devastation of the East Coast at Breezy Point,” Santoro said. “It looked like an atom bomb had dropped on it. Houses were completely demolished. Some houses were picked up and moved. I have never seen anything like it. Our kids that day worked for 10 hours in the rain, indoors and outdoors. They came back to Lourdes at 7:30 and practiced because we had a game the next day.
“We had eight kids on the team, and six wrote their college essays about that experience. You can see the impact it had on them. I knew then we were going to do this every year.”
Santoro shares photos from previous community service projects with current players. Senior George Siegrist is in his second varsity season and had a better understanding of what to expect for this year’s trip.
“Not only does it bring the team together, it makes you feel good that you’re helping someone less fortunate than you. It’s good to help your community,” said Siegrist, a parishioner of St. Martin de Porres in Poughkeepsie.
Sophomore William Hart, a parishioner of St. Peter’s in Poughkeepsie, added, “It’s really a great feeling to get stuff done and help people. It’s great for team bonding. It’s different than team trips where you’re in a hotel enjoying yourself. We weren’t sleeping in a hotel. We were working hard.”
Bill Kyle, athletic director at Lourdes, said community service is not mandatory, but is expected.
“When I got here in May, I saw community projects were a big part of the athletics program, and I have it as an agenda item in all of my coaches’ preseason meetings because I think it’s a good thing,” he said.
The Warriors, who have only three seniors on their roster, won their first two regular-season games in the days following their weekend away from the mid-Hudson Valley. Lourdes rallied from a nine-point deficit in the third quarter to beat Lincoln in its opener.
“(The trip) brought us closer together and it helped us win our first game because we had pretty good chemistry on the floor,” said sophomore Trevor Zamudio, a parishioner of St. Mary’s in Fishkill.