Let’s All Pay It Forward

Picture this: It’s 1986 and I’m assessing my “situation” as I question whether or not I should walk in the door for an orientation meeting that is recruiting students for this fairly new sport called Cross Country. Like most puberty-ridden adolescents getting ready to enter high school, I am struggling with self-doubt, worried about my appearance and questioning where I will fit in my new environment.

I took a leap of faith and said, “What the heck, what do I have to lose.”

During the orientation, this gruff, no-nonsense coach kept espousing statements like: “No prior experience necessary. If you show up, we’ll turn you into an athlete.” The more I heard, the better it gets. “Make friends!” “Get in shape!” “Grow personally and accomplish more than you ever thought possible!” Fortunately, I decided to put those guarantees to the test, and over the next four years, the Fairhaven Cross Country Program transformed me — a shy, nonathletic teenager — into a confident, fitness-focused man who has proudly served in the United States Air Force for the past 17 years.

The Fairhaven Cross Country Program still exists today, but it does not enjoy the same support it once received. Over the past three years, Jo-Anne Charette, the coach and a teacher at the high school, has relied on local businesses and individual donors to keep the program “running” (no pun intended). Once I learned about this last Fall, Sal Corrao (Class of ’89) and I decided to organize this race so we can ensure this program that had such a positive impact on us and many others still continues.

In the end, we all need to remember the events that influenced our lives by “paying forward” our time, experience, and energy to ensure those same foundational experiences are available to future generations. Without any hesitation, I can easily say the opportunities I have enjoyed and the successes I have been lucky enough to achieve were due to the foundational values this program instilled within me — confidence, teamwork, leadership, and a strong work ethic.

This program made all the difference for me. If this program can have the profound impact it had on me 20 years ago, it can do the same for many other young men and women. So please join us on April 29th for this inaugural event to celebrate a healthy lifestyle and give back to a program that can lead to a bright future to so many young men and women!

Lyle K. Drew
Fairhaven High School, Class of 1990
Co-Director, West Island 5K