Mormon Channel Blog

Here to Help: Hoop Fest

July 23, 2015

Have you heard the latest Here to Help story about the legendary coach and mentor who changed the lives of hundreds of young men before his early death from Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)? You will not want to miss it.

E. F. “Ernie” Wallengren was a successful television writer and producer before he chose to dedicate most of his time to coaching basketball at Calabasas High School, in California. More impressive though was the club team he started in order to include underprivileged and troubled youth he saw hanging out at the gym.

Obie was one of those underprivileged boys. Our favorite part of this episode is when he describes the moments with Ernie that changed his life forever.

Obi was 11 years old when Ernie invited him to participate in the basketball club. Obi often had no way of getting to the games because he lived far away and his mother worked away from home. Ernie made the commitment to pick him up from school so he could play.

“Anytime somebody takes the time to see potential in you that you don’t see, for some reason … you kind of want to prove them right. You kind of want to live up to the expectation that they give you,” Obi explains. “That’s what drew me to him. He just saw something in me that I never saw. I didn’t ever really think I was worth much. I wish he was here now to see—I hope I made him happy.”

Two years into his friendship with Ernie, Obi’s basketball shoes were wearing thin. At a tournament, he played one game and realized the hole in his shoe was too big. He told Ernie he didn’t want to play the next game. Ernie immediately took him to a shoe store and purchased a new pair.

“He told me to make him a promise that I won’t let anything like this stand in my way. … It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to reach out,” he learned.

What is your favorite part of the episode? What does Ernie’s example inspire you to do for others?