Good Sports: Young Athletes Are Champions for the Community
If you heard that a high school athlete who plays both football and lacrosse was getting an award, you’d probably think it was because of his performance in the game.
You might not assume it was because he coordinated a food drive that brought over 14,000 pounds of goods to impoverished families in Orange Mound. But that’s how Miller Manguno, a junior at Briarcrest Christian School, became one of this year’s nominees for the Memphis Area I AM SPORT Award.
“The needs in the community are, they're plentiful,” Manguno said. “I'm glad that our service organization is getting a little bit of traction, which is really good. And it really means a lot to me.”
The annual Award is presented by USA Today and the Commercial Appeal. The local winner, to be announced in June, is eligible for a state award, which puts them in the running for the national prize. USA Today Event Director, Taylor Stern, said the award brings sports and community service together.
“The high school sports award shows honor the best student athletes in the area, but we also wanted to shine a spotlight on high school athletes that are doing great things for their community,” Stern said. “So maybe they aren't the best high school athlete, but they're making a difference in other ways.”
Of course, that’s not to say these nominees aren’t impressive athletes as well. Take Claire Hollingsworth, a freshman at St. Benedict at Auburndale High School. She’s won more than 40 golf tournaments.
“It's something that I can say that I'm really good at,” Hollingsworth said. “And I'm super small. And so it's something that it doesn't really matter my size. I can still compete with everyone.”
At 4-feet 9 inches and 82 lbs, Hollingsworth said her stature doesn’t factor into her golf game. It does, occasionally though, at the St. Vincent DePaul soup kitchen, where she’s been volunteering almost every Friday since she was in first grade.
“I can still do the things that people that are taller and bigger than me can,” Hollingsworth said. “And I might need a stool or a chair, but I can still help feed the homeless and help brighten their day.”
The same goes for Hudson Hollenbeck, a junior at Collierville High School, who turned his athletic skill into a fundraiser for lung cancer research.
“I'm the kicker for the football team, and so what people will do is they'll pledge money to this website,” Hollenbeck said. “And for every kick that I make, that money goes towards Lung Cancer Foundation and research to find more cures and stuff because it's actually the least funded foundation because it's known as being a smoker's disease.”
Hollenbeck’s mom was diagnosed with lung cancer back in 2015 though she never smoked a day in her life. Since then, she and her son have launched a website where people can make donations or pledge on Hollenbeck’s kicks.
Another nominee, Tori Moore, is on the St. Benedict bowling team. She volunteers with the Special Olympics Memphis over the summer.
And Nile Williams, also at St. Benedict, plays tennis and works as an assistant pantry coordinator at the Halal Food Pantry. She said providing food and clothing to those in need feels “like a dose of adrenaline.”
“When I see their face, I'm like, ‘Oh, this is good,” Williams said. “I need to keep doing this so that I'm making other people happy. I’m making people get what they need on a monthly basis. And so it feels good. It feels amazing to give back.”
And when the I AM SPORT award winner is announced June 28, hopefully other high school athletes will be inspired to lend a helping hand in their community.
In the meantime, if you need some inspiration to do the same, check out these short profiles of this year’s local candidates: