St. Francis Medical Center Serves Up a Community Message with Lynwood High School Football Team
Dec 13, 2018 | St. Francis News
It’s 1:30 pm on a Friday at St. Francis Medical Center and lined up along the wall outside the Cafeteria entrance are nearly two dozen tall young men waiting politely and patiently to enter. As the late lunch crowd dwindles at the entrée station and grill, a woman in a team jacket gives the OK for the young men to go in six at a time. Café patrons look on with curiosity, but rarely stop to inquire who this group is.
They are the Lynwood High School Varsity Football team, and this is a scene that has been repeated every fall season at St. Francis since 1992. It’s the Pre-Home Game Meal prepared and provided for the players at no cost. It’s a program started by Harding Young, MD, family practice physician and member of the St. Francis Medical Staff, Board of Directors and Foundation Board of Trustees, and former Chief of Staff. This program is one of the ways he is carrying forward a legacy begun by his friend, mentor, and prominent St. Francis surgeon and community leader, Dr. Ross Miller*.
Here is Dr. Young’s story.
It was ’91 while watching a boxing match at the home of Dr. Keith Harris that Dr. Ross Miller looked over at me and said that he had something he would like me to help him with. Dr. Miller was 40 years my senior at the time but still “one of the boys.” I had much respect for him but had no idea of his significant achievements in trauma surgery, philanthropy, and community activism and involvement until much later. He was a big sports buff, a great guy and fun to be around. He took me to the Lynwood High varsity football games that fall, and while at those games, introduced me to the athletic director, Mr. McGuiness. During that season he asked me to take over what he had done for years before. He told me that it was not enough to see the community from my office, but to get out there with the community and be a part of the community. He was a wise man and a beautiful mentor.
He said that the young men of Lynwood needed to see other young men of color doing the things that they need exposure to. He told me that if these young men have the opportunity to feel that they are loved and respected by the community, then they would turn around and come back and serve the community as well. He was right!
I saw after my first year as the team doctor that the young men were given a pre-game meal of a burger, fries and a soda. Many would say how this wasn’t enough, and by game time, they were still hungry. I went to Dr. Gerald Kozai, St. Francis CEO at the time, and the Dietary Services staff, and the next year we started the Pre-Home Game Meal Program that you can still see today. The Dietary staff have been so loving and gracious, and they have adopted this team as their own. Many staff have had family members on the team. They have even done nutritional counseling, teaching the men to eat a balanced meal throughout the weeks before games, training, and throughout life.
We have had several players distinguish themselves in college and in pro careers, but it is most important to note that many of our players have come back to start LACS, Lynwood Athletics and Community Services, which mentors our young girls and boys through Pop Warner football and cheerleading.
It has been 26 years. By the Grace of God, I’m still on the sideline with a full heart knowing that Dr. Ross Miller was right and that St. Francis Medical Center has and always will nurture the community we Love and Serve!
*Dr. Ross Miller was a member of the St. Francis medical staff. During his tenure, he served as Chief of Staff, member of the St. Francis Board of Directors and Foundation Board of Trustees, and Director of Special Project. Dr. Miller passed away in Feb. 1996.