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Ashway: Positive sports stories still exist in the world
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Fed up? Had enough?

Tired of having a newscast break out every time you turn on a ball game?

Then this column’s for you.
Believe it or not, some good people still populate the sports world. Of course, we never see them in the headlines or on the news. There’s no room for good stories, because today’s media feels compelled to bludgeon us with every negative story.

Guess what? We get it the first time. We don’t need myriad tellings to grasp the ugliest details of each destructive story.

So you probably missed what Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo did last week.

Parramore’s New Image Youth Center in Orlando is an inspirational place for underprivileged children. At the Center, kids can grow, learn and avoid trouble.

Last Sunday night, thieves broke in and stole $6,000 worth of equipment.

On Thursday, Oladipo replaced the stolen computers, televisions and video equipment.

“To give back to the youth is what I’m all about,” Oladipo told Josh Cohen of nba.com. “It’s tough they got all this stuff taken away from them. I am blessed and fortunate to be able to help and give it all back.

“It touched a soft spot in my heart. I want them to know that we are here to help them.”

The Center, which opened in 2004, can now continue to provide experiences that will enable kids to achieve their ambitions by providing resources and tools for future success.

Across the pond, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of Saint Andrews, Scotland, stunned the world last week with its announcement that it would extend memberships to women.

“This is a very important and positive day in the history of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club,” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson announced. “I think it is a very positive message for the game of golf.”

After 260 years, the R&A finally saw the light.

A Baltimore Raven made positive news off the field. Ma’ake Kemoeatu previously announced his retirement in order to donate a kidney to his brother Chris, a former Pittsburgh Steeler.

“He couldn’t play anymore,” Ma’ake told the Associated Press. “And I didn’t want to be in a position where he couldn’t play but I’d keep playing. As soon as my brother’s health was at risk, I wanted to stop everything.”

Wednesday, Dr. Stephen Bartlett, a University of Maryland Medical Center transplant surgeon, pronounced the Aug. 27 surgery a success.

“I’m the oldest of seven kids,” Ma’ake continued. “It is my responsibility to take care of my younger brothers and sisters. If my younger siblings need blood, it’ll be my blood. If they need a kidney, it’ll have to be my kidney.”

Then there’s the story of Devon Still, the third-year defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals. On June 4, Still learned that his 4-year-old daughter, Leah, had stage four neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that develops from immature nerve cells in the body, commonly found in the adrenal glands, abdomen, chest, neck and near the spine.

The original prognosis gave Leah a 50-50 chance to live.

The Bengals excused Still from organized team activities and minicamp so he could help with Leah’s care. But when it came time for the final cuts, the Bengals didn’t have roster space for Still.

Despite the fact that he wasn’t a star — Still had played in only 18 games, getting in on 21 tackles, in his first two years — the Bengals kept him on their practice squad. That way, Still got paid, and got to retain his health insurance.

Leah’s medical bills could top $1 million.

“They could have just washed their hands completely of it,” Still told the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Paul Dehner. “Say we don’t care what’s going on in his personal life, we just want people who care 100 percent about football. That’s what they pay us to do.

“But they thought about my personal issues and allowed me to come back on the practice squad, so I still have insurance.”

Not only that, the Bengals announced that all proceeds from the sale of his black No. 75 jersey would go to pediatric cancer research.

Within 24 hours, sales of Still’s jersey outsold any Bengal player’s jersey, ever, in any 24-hour period. More than 5,000 sold the first week, raising over $400,000 for research. And last week Sean Payton, the Saints coach, bought 100 jerseys, all sized small and medium, and donated them to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Last Thursday, Payton and Still got to speak with each other on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” morning show.

“It just really caught my attention how you were handling it,” Payton said. “And I think it will give other people strength, obviously in a difficult time. I’m a huge fan from afar, [though] I’ve never met you.”

In response, Still said, “I just wanted to thank you for really stepping up to help support this issue. I’m pretty sure you know how many families and how many children you’re helping out with this. And it’s just showing the world how it’s not about how competitive you can be on the field. It’s about what you can do to help out humanity. And I really appreciate you doing what you did.”

Good people, good stories.

Believe it or not, they’re still out there.

Denton Ashway is a contributing columnist for The Times. His column appears weekly.

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