Fellowship of Christian Athletes focuses on God in children’s lives

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The large crowd enjoyed meeting four students who have been helped by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The large crowd enjoyed meeting four students who have been helped by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Former UNC basketball star Al Wood offered inspiration to the attentive audience.

Former UNC basketball star Al Wood offered inspiration to the attentive audience.

PERQUIMANS COUNTY — The mission statement for Fellowship of Christian Athletes reads as follows: “To present to athletes and coaches, and all whom they influence, the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving Him in their relationships and in the Fellowship of the church.”

This was the emphasis of the annual banquet held Monday night at the Cale Conference & Retreat Center.

Approximately 140 people attended. All were there to recognize and demonstrate appreciation for the coaches who work with the children in order to help them become more familiar with the word of God — while teaching them how to become better athletes within their school systems.


Many of these youngsters have never received any religious training in the home.

There were several students — who worked as table servers and food servers — and they were all recognized for their work with and for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Four students in particular were singled out for being leaders at their various schools — both in sports and in prayer groups.

Tyrelia Sawyer-Mercer, from Camden High School; Tyler Vick, from JA Holmes Hign School in Edenton; Maci Keaton, from Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City; and Robert Walker from Gates County High School, were each called to the stage and asked questions about their participation in the FCA, and what they got out of this participation compared to what they put in.

The evening’s featured speaker was Al Wood, who played on the 1980 US Olympic Basketball Team and who helped lead the North Carolina Tar Heels to the 1981 NCAA National Championship game. Wood was the first team All-America after the 1981 campaign, and led the team in scoring for three seasons. He went on to play in the National Basketball Association for six seasons, having been drafted by the Atlanta Hawks.

Wood offered laugh-filled recollections of his early life, which was beset by personal hardship, but his anecdotal comments enthralled the audience. But as he got further and further into the discussion of his life, he began to cry as he recollected the challenges that he faced as a youth growing up and trying to find his way out of his personal set of circumstances through the ability to play basketball at a high level.

He related that his mother was an alcoholic, and that he was adopted by his grandmother at the age of three. As he grew up and began to play basketball, he found that he had the talent but he needed the help of an outside source in order to become recognized within the sport.

He described writing a letter to legendary basketball coach Dean Smith at the University of North Carolina and inviting him to come to Georgia — where he lived – and to watch him play. Coach Smith sent an assistant instead. That night, when going up for a jump shot, his legs were taken out from under him and he landed awkwardly, injuring his foot and ankle. He thought that his audition would fail.

But the coaches wrapped his foot and ankle – and he went back on the court scoring 54 points that night. The next weekend Coach Smith himself came to watch him play. Wood was offered a full scholarship that night. But being a mischievous young man, he decided he wanted to play around a little bit so he auditioned at several other schools before accepting the offer to play for the man that would later be instrumental in turning his life around.

His mother’s alcoholism played a role in the stabbing of a man, for which she went to prison. However, she was given the opportunity to leave prison under chaperone and attend her son’s last college game. This was the beginning of his tearful recollection of the events that followed.

Wood related that he had not taken a single drink all the way through his college years — for fear that this would turn him into an alcoholic, as it did his mother. But, he made some bad choices and began drinking regularly and began to lose his way in the process. He was at his lowest when he called his old Coach to seek a way out of the dilemma. He had been signed by the Atlanta Hawks and given $1 million so he thought he had the world by the tail until the point where Coach Smith told him to drive to Charlotte and see a man that would turn his life around.

When he got to Charlotte, he became committed to not only finding God but also accepting Jesus Christ in his life. Comically, Wood told the audience that Coach Smith required Sunday church attendance from all of his all of his players – in order to say out of trouble!

When Wood accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, he realized what he needed to do to turn his life around and he implored the students in the audience to continue to follow the religious teachings that they receive through their participation in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Reporter’s note: I have never been so inspired as I was Monday night. The children named above, were outgoing, self-confident, and were wonderful spokespersons for the word of God. We all know that many children these days never go to church or know about the Bible and its teachings. These children are the exception, speaking openly about what their participation in religious activities what that has meant to their personal lives. We hope that our readers will be as inspired as we are and will seek out this organization and help promote its good work.