As a 16-year-old junior in high school, Kyle Ocker says an iPod or iPad are at the top of his wish list this Christmas. As a Cox Mill High wrestler, he’d like nothing more than for Santa to leave a neatly wrapped state dual-team playoff berth under his tree Tuesday morning.But Ocker will have a unique opportunity to gift himself this Christmas. He and a dozen or more Chargers teammates will spend part of the day volunteering at the W.G. (Bill) Hefner Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salisbury.The outing is being led by Jimmy Meyers, Cox Mill’s coach, and Mike Rodgers, the father of two Chargers wrestlers. Primarily, the group will meet up with patients in the hospital’s recreation room for an afternoon of bingo and Christmas treats.Christmas bingo at the VA hospital has become a tradition for the Cox Mill wrestling team. Starting with Mike Rodgers’ family making the first visit in 2010, the Chargers have become more involved every year since.“Christmas is kind of about serving others,” said Jacob Rodgers, a sophomore. “When Jesus was born, he was serving humanity. These (veterans) served their country. This is a day that we can give back to them.”The Hefner VA Medical Center’s services are available to approximately 287,000 veterans in a 24-county area. An extensive residential-care treatment program and a community nursing home program are among the services the hospital provides.A Marine Corp veteran who served as a combat engineer in Desert Storm in the early 1990s, Mike Rodgers felt a connection to the VA hospital’s work and the men and women it serves. He, his wife Amy and their five children made their first Christmas visit two years ago.The Rodgers family came to know Jimmy Meyers when Jacob and Nathan Rodgers, now a Cox Mill junior wrestler, were members of the Team Cabarrus youth wrestling program in the mid-2000s. Meyers, who grew up in the wrestling hotbed of western Pennsylvania, was a Team Cabarrus coach at the time.Mike Rodgers returned to the VA hospital on the July Fourth holiday in 2011 and took Meyers with him.Meyers was named the nonfaculty coach at Cox Mill prior to the 2011-12 season. He took over a program that he says won just three dual matches in the previous two seasons.Wishing to promote goodwill and sacrifice by the Cox Mill wrestling team, Meyers, his wife Amy, and two children were accompanied by three other families that included five of his wrestlers. Over a three-hour period, wrestlers helped veterans, usually about 60 in number, with their bingo cards, passed out prizes and served food.Christmas bingo has made a personal impact on Jacob Rodgers, who plans on joining the Marine Corps after he graduates high school.“There’s this one veteran that I talked with,” said Jacob. “He was disabled, he couldn’t walk. He needed help getting down stairs. I started talking with him.“He was a demolitions guy in the Marines. I think he was in Vietnam. It was great to talk with someone. … It was great to hear about what they did in their times.”This year, Meyers has opened the invitation to the entire team. He expects most of the wrestlers on his 24-man team to participate.The Chargers are enjoying a fine season on the mat. They won four of their first six dual meets, and several individuals have won 10 or more matches including seniors Taylor Page and Nathan Rodgers and juniors Chase Philemon, Tanner Small and Kyle Ocker.Ocker and his family had no problem making the commitment to Christmas bingo. They will leave for Salisbury around lunch time after opening their presents in the morning.This act of goodwill toward men certainly puts the Chargers on Santa’s nice list. So, maybe that berth in the state tournament is not too far behind.
Friday, Dec. 21, 2012
Cox Mill wrestlers, families to visit VA center on Christmas
Visiting patients at the Salisbury hospital has become inspiring tradition for Cox Mill families
The Cox Mill High School wrestling team posed for a photo after a tournament at Carson High School in China Grove. From left are (front row, kneeling) Kevin Williams, Tanner Small, Andrew Motley, Keaton Dawkins (holding sign), Nathan Rodgers (behind Keaton with head leaning), Kyle Ocker, Taylor Page, Brandon Poole (leaning forward), Jacob Rodgers and Alex Black; (back row, standing) Josh Blucher, Zach King, Dayvuone Pharr, coach Jimmy Meyers, coach Jon Hill, John Draper, Kinan Sallah, Luiggi Campoverde and Chase Philemon.
Cox Mill wrestler Zachary Rodgers helps coach Jimmy Meyers call out the Bingo game at the VA Hospital in Salisbury. The team is turning its bingo night into an annual service for the hospital's patients.