Bunn students get Globetrotter preview today

YOUNGSTOWN — Barry Hardy may not have played in a Harlem Globetrotters’ basketball game since 1999, but he can still dazzle the crowd with the way he handles a basketball.

Hardy, called High Rise because of his 48-inch vertical leap, got his nickname playing college basketball at Brigham Young University-Hawaii when he once jumped so high to block a shot that he hit his head on the rim.

He brought his basketball and a special message about character development to pupils at Paul C. Bunn Elementary School today.

The visit, a prelude to the Globetrotters’ performance Feb. 1 at the Chevrolet Centre, was part of the CHEER for Character Program that the Globetrotters have brought to thousands of elementary school children across the United States and Canada over the past three years.

Hardy, 38, a Globetrotters’ Goodwill Ambassador, has been with the team for a total of 14 years, first as a player for six years and later as marketing director and most recently as an ambassador to schools across the country.

He’s one of four or five Globetrotters on the ambassador circuit. Together, they visit hundreds of schools every year to extol the benefits of character development that can help young people grow into healthy, productive citizens.

“I really enjoy this,” he said, explaining that the job gives him a chance to speak with children who remind him of his own children back home in South Carolina.

Dressed in a Globetrotters’ warm-up suit and tennis shoes, he quickly gets the pupils involved in learning about CHEER, an acronym which stands for Cooperation, Healthy mind and body, Effort, Enthusiasm and Responsibility. He encourages them to match their actions at home and in school with those character goals.

The children in kindergarten through the fourth grade at Bunn received his message with enthusiasm, cheering wildly for classmates and teachers picked at random to participate in parts of the program, offering examples to describe each of the CHEER traits and clapping in time to the tune of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” the Globetrotters’ theme song.

The visit was arranged through Junior Achievement of the Mahoning Valley Inc.

Hardy said he spent several years working with the Detroit office of Junior Achievement. One of his responsibilities was getting volunteers into the classroom, he said.

The CHEER program was developed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education and is being run in conjunction with the team’s 2007 North American Tour, which began in late December and will run for four months. This is the team’s 81st season.

The Globetrotters are known for their antics on the basketball court and their overriding goal is to leave the crowd with a smile. Hardy did that today, ending his presentation with a demonstration of his own ball-handling skills.

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