Ben's Babbles: Providence does good in picking up trainer tab

April 30, 2011

On the wall of the training room at Hood River Valley High School is a whiteboard.

The notes scribbled on it alternate between notes of who gets taped when to notes thanking Ed Medina, the trainer for the athletic program at HRV.

"Medina is a stud," "HRV girls lax (hearts) Medina."

The retired Forest Service employee now commits much of his time to the school's student athletes, arriving when practices start at 3 p.m. and not leaving until the last game finishes.

"It was either do this or stay at home and take care of my honey-do list," he says with a sheepish grin.

Medina looks around his training room, which when he first started as the trainer in 2003 had one table and no electricity.

Today it has a soaking tub, freezer fully stocked with ice, a new Lifecycle stationary bike and a roll-able stretcher table.

"Providence paid for all of it," he said.

Providence Hood River began sponsoring the program from its early days, and has continued to do so on a year-to-year basis since, despite a tighter supply of grant money and a widening level of need throughout the community.

They should be applauded for doing so.

"It is a critical program," outgoing Providence Hood River Communications Director Barb Ayers said. "School district administrators told us how it important it was."

With the school district cutting 20 percent of the athletic funding from the high school budget this year, there was no way the school or the district was going to be able to pick up the tab.

So Providence stepped in and is funding the program for at least another year.

"It takes a lot of the stress off," Medina said. "They have done a wonderful in sponsoring this for as long as they have. It has helped so many kids."

Medina is part first responder, part point of first contact for kids with injuries.

When an athlete, whether playing for Hood River Valley or another school, suffers an injury during a game, Medina is typically the first one on the scene.

During practices Medina handles everything from supervising athletes getting in some time on the stationary bike to trying to help an new athlete who is feeling pain in muscles they are not used to stressing in a competitive environment.

HRV Athletic Director Keith Bassham feels having Medina around is great not just for the kids, but the peace of mind of the school and parents, as well.

"We are in a place where we need a trainer for our athletic program," Bassham said. "To know an event is taking place and having someone is there who can have it covered and will do the right thing is really great."

With Medina on site he can help assess players for concussions and provide an impartial voice between a coach who wants a player back, but also wants them healthy, and a player who is not likely to say he or she is not fit to play unless it is completely obvious.

The school started IMPACT concussion testing three years ago and Bassham said that many schools in the state have called upon the HRV athletic department as a model to follow.

Medina said he has even had a coach come up to him and thank him for the program, because he had suffered numerous concussions and has suffered post-concussion syndrome for much of his life.

"We wouldn't have all of this if it was just on the school," he said sweeping his arm around to his computer with concussion-testing records and all the equipment and supplies. "It's because of Providence."

Providence funding is only for this year, and Ayers admitted it is getting tougher to fill all the needs in the community. The grant to HRV includes funding for the trainer, trainer supplies and an ambulance at football games.

"In this economy the needs are great and the budgets are tight," Ayers said. "We just finished a community needs assessment and every year these all come up."

Medina and Bassham both acknowledged that it's tough to continue asking Providence to fund the program every year and that they may need to start looking at other grant sources, but they remain grateful for how much Providence has supplied to keep the program running.

"It's a really big deal to have Providence doing this," Bassham said.

The Providence logo is on the trainer's jacket Medina wears and the doors to the training room, which Bassham said they intend to open up next year before football games for an open house.

Even if Providence is unable to fund the program going forward because another program in the community needs the ever-tightening supply of grant money, they have gotten the ball rolling and kept it going in a program that is critical to the health and safety of student athletes in their formative years and to the peace of mind for coaches and school officials as well as parents.

If they have to pass the baton, hopefully there is another organization just as giving to pick it up.

Hood River can only hope the money is there, or that another organization in the community has some grant money to spare to keep the program funded every single year.

It's worth it.

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