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Milford football team, senior citizens find common ground rooted in community

By HECTOR LONGO

Staff Writer

MILFORD – So you want to play football at Milford High, do you?

Be prepared for a regimen of hard work on the field and community service off it. And be ready to be blown away in the process.

That’s what happened to senior halfback Matt Hannon and so many other Spartans through the “Young Kasama” program.

Every Friday, after school several Milford players like Hannon head down West Street to the Crestwood Center for some conversation, a fun game or two and yes, life lessons with the senior residents.

“I got into it like most of the football players do. I was asked by Coach (Steve) Scannell a couple years ago,” said Hannon, a big part of Friday night’s 42-21 Milford victory over previously unbeaten Kennett High.

“I met a 100-year-old woman named Bessie. She was a Marine. I played cribbage with her, and I’ve been going back Fridays ever since.”

The word Kasama means companion. Scannell works hard in the recruitment process. But once he gets the student-athletes, they’re quickly hooked.

Matt and Bessie are separated by generations but, like most, they hit it off quickly.

“She’s from Nashua. I’m told by people at Crestwood that she doesn’t remember too much, but she looks forward to every Friday with me,” said Hannon. “So I don’t want to disappoint her.”

The visits are casual but they go on past the season with enthusiasm.

Hannon, who wants to study mechanical engineering on an ROTC scholarship, has already been accepted to Norwich and is also high on Virginia Tech. He and Bessie spend their time talking about football and the area. She was one of the Crestwood seniors who were special guests at the recent Milford-Pelham game. The two shared a big hug and an inspired Matt went off lead the Spartans to victory.

“Two years ago I would have said this wouldn’t have been a big part of my life. I’m glad it is,” said Hannon.

“It’s opened my eyes, bigger than they were before. She tells me what it was like to grow up here 100 years ago.

“I’ve gained so much wisdom from her.”

“I started freshman year. Coach Scannell asked for volunteers,” said Forsley. “I have grandparents, and I figured that’s somebody’s grandparents, and they may need someone.

“I ead to them, play games with them, whatever it takes. There’s a sense of fullfillment. I feel like I’m doing something right. You talk to them, you feel such joy. It makes their day.”

Forsley said the experience has paid off, especially at his own family’s gatherings.

“I’ve learned to communicate with people of different generations. I do it every single Friday,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m surprised. Talking to people is something I’ve always loved to do. Hearing their experiences and their stories, I knew it was going to be awesome.”

There are special events, too.

Next week during Spirit Week, Milford High is collecting candy so the residents with the assistance of the Young Kasamas can distribute it to the approximately 300 kids who show up at Crestwood for Halloween trick or treating.

“The kids really enjoy it,” said the assistant coach for the 5-1 Spartans. “They have a great time. And you can imagine what it means to the residents.”

There are special events, too.

Next week during Spirit Week, Milford High is collecting candy so the residents with the assistance of the Young Kasamas can distribute it to the approximately 300 kids who show up at Crestwood for Halloween trick or treating.

“The kids really enjoy it,” said the assistant coach for the 5-1 Spartans. “They have a great time. And you can imagine what it means to the residents.”

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