By: Morgan Walsh
Joshua Land, a senior at East Greenwich High School, recently won the Prudential Spirit of the Community Award for Rhode Island. The Program awards students based community service, choosing state and national honorees which are given a scholarship and metal. With the help of Mr. Hopkins, the principal of East Greenwich High School, Josh entered the competition in November. Until Monday, February 8th, he hadn’t heard much from the program.
“I had to do a return at Nordstrom rack with my sister, and I came home, and there was a package sitting at my garage,” described Josh in a joking manner, “and I thought that’s normal, another thing ordered online. I got the box, and it had the prudential spirit of the community award seal on it. I opened it and inside was just metal and nothing else. All the forms and stuff were hidden in a secret compartment under the box. So I was sitting in my house for an hour before I decided to investigate the box and found the papers.”
Land entered for the award based on his work with the Challenger project, a program that gives children with disabilities the opportunity to play sports. Land worked as one of the buddies, an assistant, and a friend to the athletes.
“For me, youth sports were a huge part of my life growing up and so being able to see these kids have the same opportunities that I did and enjoy them as much as I did is so rewarding because I know that I am helping and being a valued member of the community to these kids,” said Land.
Josh currently works with a little girl named Olivia, who along with her fellow teammates, enjoys teasing Josh during practice and trying to outdo him in his favorite sport, of which he is captain at EGHS, Baseball.
“She and I have this really close friendship now through this,” said Josh, “It’s really awesome because I get to help her love baseball.”
Seven years ago, when Josh was in 5th grade, he joined the program when they only offered little league baseball in the spring. Since then the organization has grown, now including Basketball, Flag Football, and Soccer. During this time, Howard Faunce, the head of the program, has seen the also athletes on the team grow with it thanks to the help of the buddies.
Faunce explains, “Our Athletes are some young people with some challenges, some more than others, but when they play you wouldn’t know it. They have challenges that within an hour seem to disappear. They’re just laughing and having fun out there. The buddies are just special people and they help the program grow. Josh is kinda my go-to guy, but I have amazing, amazing buddies, just a bunch of them. And to see their interactions with the athletes, it’s inspiring, and I am excited to get to work with the group.”
After hearing about Land winning the award, Faunce said he “was not surprised but was thrilled for him”, because he sees Josh as being capable of anything he sets out to do.
The Challenger program is open for any student to participate as an athlete or buddy. If your town does not have a program and you are interested in participating you are welcome to reach out and have your child join them regardless of where you live.
Contact Howard Faunce at firstname.lastname@example.org