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Coach Byrd speaks at Graceworks event, unites community for common cause

Rick Byrd and Mike Keith were each awarded the Grace In Action Award from GraceWorks.
 Kerri Bartlett

Belmont University Basketball Coach Rick Byrd spoke to a crowd of about 300 last night about the importance of sportsmanship and maintaining personal character at the annual GraceWorks Ministries fundraiser at Embassy Suites in Cool Springs.
Renowned Voice of the Titans sportscaster Mike Keith served as emcee for the night.
“It’s amazing what can happen when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit,” Byrd said.
Byrd said that just like a team who works together for a common cause, volunteers and staff for GraceWorks give of their time and energy from the heart to those in need without expecting credit in return. 
“About 90 percent of our culture is about bringing attention to ourselves [with today’s social media and digital devices],” Byrd said. “But we need to do the opposite.”
Byrd explained that he sets high standards of character for the young men that he coaches by preparing them for the real world and instilling a sense of self respect. The 28-year Bruin coach encourages team members to wear a button down shirt “always tucked in,” he said, to dinners and appearances, which the team calls their “airport clothes,” and to put away cell phones during events.
Byrd emphasized the importance of supporting young people by helping them develop into successful individuals off the court as well as on the court.
“When the whole team does well, more guys get individual recognition and awards,” Byrd said. “When young men understand that and put the goal of the team succeeding ahead of their own individual gain, it’s a remarkable thing.”
Byrd also discussed the importance of showing respect to others in the world and world of sports. 
“There is so much profanity from people doing what I do today,” he said. “We don’t do that or allow that amongst our players. Would it be OK for a history or math teacher? Then why is it OK for us to do it? Now I see it slipping more and more into the high school level. It’s disappointing. Our job is to try to teach and encourage.”
Byrd recently won the Bob Frederick Sportsmanship Award. With a 571-291 record at Belmont and hundreds of accolades, Byrd said that the recent award has meant the most to him. 
“Some coaches think that you can’t teach character or make people better … we work for a university and are supposed to be a part of the educational process. Players should leave learning life lessons,” Byrd said.
The work of GraceWorks
In just 2013, GraceWorks served about 30,000 people in Williamson County with nearly $3 million worth of assistance. 
“That means someone has knocked on our door 30,000 times in need of help,” Director Tina Edwards said. 
GraceWorks provides the basic living essentials to those in need such as clothes and food and helps those facing family emergencies such as financial crises or unexpected illnesses by paying for rent and utility bills.
Keith, a longtime supporter of GraceWorks, who grew up off Peytonsville Road in Spring Hill, said, “Sometimes people in Williamson County forget, because we are so lucky, that there is a need here, but GraceWorks doesn’t forget.”
“It is so important to make sure that the need is not forgotten,” Keith said.
Donations raised from the ‘GraceWorks Sports Spectacular’ fundraiser will go to the organization’s programming. Over $40,000 was raised last year.
GraceWorks hopes to raise enough through a capital project to construct an approximately $3 million facility to house their growing needs and move from their aging building on Southeast Parkway in Franklin.
Michael Call
One of the 30,000 plus helped
Michael Call, one of the 30,000 plus that the organization has helped also spoke to the crowd. 
Originally from Detroit, he found himself in Franklin a few years ago after losing his wife in a car accident and soon after, his home.
“Our world was turned upside down,” he said. “We were a two-income family, and suddenly it wasn’t there.”
“I was close to being homeless, but GraceWorks paid a week’s rent at the Goosecreek Inn for a room to stay,” Call said. “You never think that it could happen to you, like it’s only something you see on T.V. or hear about, but it can happen. Life can blindside you.”
Soon after, Call was hired as a maintenance worker at the hotel, which allowed him to purchase a three-bedroom suite at the inn for him and his daughter. He also said that he is thankful that his hardships led him to the Williamson County Schools district so that his daughter can obtain an education from the top public schools in the state.
Call moved up to the position of the hotels’ night manager and now helps others who are experiencing hard times like he did. GraceWorks and Call coordinate providing shelter at the inn when a room is needed for the night. 
“Now, I am helping those who are going through hard times when I used to be in their position,” he said.
“It has been a blessing.”

Belmont Coach Rick Byrd spoke to a crowd of about 300 last night about the importance of sportsmanship and character at the annual GraceWorks Ministries fundraiser at Embassy Suites in Cool Springs.

Posted on: 2/28/2014


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