Four active coordinators behind the scenes in West Baton Rouge Parish recreation got a moment in the spotlight.
Port Allen High School honored Eddie Payne, Chris Murphy, Kevin Mason and Roderick Washington in a ceremony during the halftime of the Feb. 8 showdown against Brusly.
Each volunteer received a plaque in the presentation, sponsored by Coach Leonard Parker and his family.
The plaques read: “In grateful appreciation of your hard work and dedication in keeping the dream alive for our kids. In recognition of your diligent and tireless efforts for spending your free time with the youth, teaching them, inspiring them, encouraging them and challenging them.”
Here’s a look at the four individuals, and their accomplishments.
EDDIE PAYNE – The resume for the 1967 Cohn High School graduate crosses many lines, yet one common factor remains – children.
Payne, 63, volunteers his time to AAU, Team USA, Hershey Track & Field, volleyball, flag football and baseball.
He has helped youngsters in West Baton Rouge and Pointe Coupee parishes, and areas as far as Atlanta over the last 38 years.
“When I look at the elite athletes who’ve won championships in football and track in this area, I see kids I’ve helped and kept out of trouble.”
His work extends beyond athletics.
Payne also coordinates tutoring programs and promotes church activities for youngsters.
“I want to help them with their morals,” he said. “You’ve got to have God in your life and you must respect your parents and opponents in your life to be true to yourself.
“I don’t like to hear crowds boo kids at ballgames,” Payne said.
Payne has also worked in programs to help show kids the importance of work and money.
“I’m all about promoting responsibility,” he said. “To see people who don’t want to learn has always been a problem for me.”
CHRIS MURPHY – The 2000 Port Allen High School graduate loves track.
He has been a familiar face in Wildcats of Port Allen track and field, as well as the AAU and Hershey Track & Field competition.
Murphy, who held a record in the pole vault competition 14 years at Port Allen High School, also helps with the track meets throughout the year at PAHS.
His children Christopher and Raven have followed in his footsteps by going into track and field competition, but Murphy’s concentration goes far beyond his two kids.
He actively works with youth throughout the parish in the track programs.
Murphy credits Payne for his success and willingness to work in volunteer programs.
“I consider him a mentor,” Murphy said. “He’s done so much for me and the community.
“I do all this because I want to give back to the community,” he said. “I want the kids coming up to have the same chance at success I had, and I want them to have the positive mentors I had.”
RODERICK WASHINGTON — Washington has worked with the AAU Westside Tigers basketball program, which travels throughout Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas.
“I like to work with programs that teach kids integrity, character, self discipline and – above all – to maintain a high grade point average,” he said.
Washington, a 1980 graduate of Port Allen High School, played football for the Pelicans. He was an All-American in track at PAHS and ran track at University of Southwest Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette).
He recruits kids from all across West Baton Rouge for athletic programs.
Washington plans to expand the AAU program into girls teams next year.
KEVIN MASON – Mason is in his sixth season with work with the youth football programs and fourth in basketball in West Baton Rouge.
He also works with the Biddy Ball program in the parish.
“It’s my love of the youth in the community that keeps me in these programs,” Mason said. “I started the program and I love it.”
The benefits of the programs keep him involved.
“If you can pull kids on to the court and keep them off the corner, it’s worth every minute,” Mason said.