'Dores help good cause, enjoy fun with fans

Sacrificing a Saturday morning sleep-in, Vanderbilt's community-minded Commodores traveled to a Nashville area park on September 12 to help promote awareness for the National Kidney Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

A few hundred people in attendance to support a loved one in need of a transplant or to remember those who had passed on, gathered for the local 2009 Kidney Walk. Youngsters, and some not so young, took time to shoot hoops, get a little coaching and grab some autographs from the players.

With breakfast bagels out of the way, the team gathered giveaway basketballs and t-shirts and headed to the court to talk with onlookers and provide a bit of coaching.

Senior guard Meredith Marsh, known for a coaching mindset, found a young protégé. "I just played with a four-year-old for about ten minutes, teaching her how to dribble." A few Vandy fans were in the crowd, insisting that Meredith and her teammates "beat Auburn and beat Tennessee" this season. She also met Ole Miss fans who drove to the event from some hours away, who confessed that "we like Vanderbilt, too."

The team spent quality minutes with a number of kids, speaking softly with the shy ones, giving tips to the older ones, and encouraging a group of young girls to come out to the games. Rebecca Silinski hoisted a small boy towards the rim for a dunk; Stephanie Holzer playfully blocked shots and guarded an energetic youngster; Angela Puleo, Jessica Mooney and Hannah Tuomi provided shooting tips while Ashlee Bridge, Elan Brown, Jordan Coleman and Gabby Smith fed balls to the shooters.

Jence Rhoads, enjoying the atmosphere, put on a little razzle dazzle by juggling basketballs and spinning one on her finger. Tiffany Clarke amazed onlookers by stretching her arms wide, palming a basketball in each hand.

Justin VanOrman, Director of Basketball Operations, set the event up before learning that there was indeed, a Vanderbilt connection.

Executive Director of Athletics Development and National Commodore Club Christy Passmore, who was attending the Kidney Walk, has a brother who ends a 2½ year wait for a transplant on October 13 at Vanderbilt Medical Center. Diagnosed 17 years ago with kidney disease, he has been on dialysis for nearly three years. "Our father had it and received a kidney transplant and our grandmother died with it because transplants weren't done then," Christy said. "A transplant is the cure."

Christy was grateful to see the team promoting awareness of the disease. "They're a great group of kids who understand how important it is to give back. They just get the importance of getting involved in their community. They're delightful. They work hard, they study hard and they play hard. People want to get to know them. It's good they're out here."

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