by: Teresa Weakley
Posted: Jul 12, 2019 / 06:00 AM EDT / Updated: Jul 12, 2019 / 06:00 AM EDT
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Being a game changer is simple: You change the game for someone else through kindness, courage or both.
That’s what Mike Sadler did in life. The punter who wore No. 3 for Michigan State University before he was killed in a 2016 car crash, left a legacy through a new program called GameChang3rs.
His mom Karen Sadler created the Michael Sadler Foundation, which is behind the pilot year for the GameChang3rs program at her son’s alma mater, Forest Hills Northern.
High school GameChang3rs ambassadors meet every month at elementary and middle schools to teach the pillars by which Sadler lived, including compassion, integrity and education.
“I looked up to Mike Sadler the same way some of these kids look up to me. They love having us come,” said Andrew, a high school junior who became an ambassador for the program in its first year.
He met Sadler when he wasn’t much older than students he worked with over the school year. He and another ambassadors read books to the kids demonstrating someone being a game changer for someone else and talked about how the students can use what they learned in their own lives.
“I’ve noticed that we’ve all done those things naturally now because we have to teach the kids. So not only are we teaching them but we’re also teaching ourselves,” another ambassador, Denko, said of putting the Sadler pillars into practice.
Denko, also a Forest Hills Northern junior, knows firsthand how important it is for someone to change the game. She was born in Ethiopia and was adopted by a family in West Michigan when she was 5.
“It’s very, very, very different from here. So I got to see what it’s like to go from not having much to having a very good life, and if I can change someone else’s life, that would be really cool,” she said.
The GameChang3rs program also meets several social emotional curriculum standards for the district, which in turn helps the teachers.
It was met with enthusiasm its first year by the young students and the staff.
“I learned that integrity means doing the right thing when no one’s looking,” one second grader wrote.
“I want to be like Mike Sadler,” another wrote.
A fourth grade student explained that the program “made me more aware of how to choose my friends.”
An eighth grade student wrote, “I learned it’s important to be kind to people because you don’t know what they’re going through in their lives.”
One of the second grade teachers said, “This is exactly what our kids need. It’s teaching valuable life lessons through older kids who the younger ones admire. We’ve never had a program like this before, it should be in every school!”
Last year, the program worked with 1,018 students in second, fourth, sixth and eighth grades. This fall, it will be shared with more than 1,200 students at five schools, including those in a Spanish immersion program at Ada Vista Elementary. There will be 68 ambassadors.
Karen Sadler said the program is a way to ensure that the kindness her son showed in life continues long after people remember him, cementing his legacy.