November 19, 2010
Kelly Lyell, The Coloradoan
Ivory Herd was having a difficult day last Saturday. The junior safety for the CSU football team was fooled on a flea-flicker play and lost his coverage to give up an early 62-yard touchdown pass in a game against Brigham Young. He finished with 10 tackles but was on the wrong end of a 49-10 score in the final home game of the season for the Rams (3-8, 2-5 Mountain West Conference).
Just an hour or two after the final gun sounded, though, Herd was across town at Respite Care, meeting the families of some of the developmentally disabled children he works with 24 hours a week at a Thanksgiving-themed gathering he helped organize.
"After the game, of course we were upset. It was a bad game," Herd said Wednesday, while most of the half-dozen or so children at the facility at the time were taking a late-morning nap. "I come over here an hour later and had this event, and it was great. It ended up making my day better."
"That's what I feel like it does for me on a daily basis. When I come here and work, this sets me up for having a great day."
As he was speaking, Herd, despite a cast on his injured and possibly broken right wrist, was twisting red and white pipe cleaners together to make candy cane decorations for the Respite Care Holiday Ball this Saturday in the Loveland. It's the largest fundraising event of the year for the nonprofit organization, executive director LeAnn Massey said.
Respite Care provides short-term care 24 hours a day, seven days a week for children ages 6 weeks to 21 years with developmental disabilities in Larimer County, addressing the needs of the children in its care while also providing a necessary break for their families, according to its stated philosophy and mission statement. Respite Care currently serves about 135 families, Massey said.
Herd, 21, first learned about Respite Care through one of the many community service projects Colorado State University coach Steve Fairchild has required his players to participate in. So, when he learned he could intern there as part of his human development and family studies degree program, he jumped at the opportunity.
"I just love kids; that's always been my thing," Herd said. "Regardless of disability, normal, above the spectrum, I just love kids. I love being around them, I love working with them. That's why I'm in this major, because I want to help kids out."
Former women's basketball player Kelly Finley, softball player Sarah Sullivan and tennis player Caitlin Fluegge all interned recently with Respite Care and paved the way for Herd, said Jen Houska, the organization's intern coordinator. Athletes, she said, tend to be organized, focused and reliable.
Herd, a 5-foot-11, 196-pounder from Vista, Calif., is CSU's third-leading tackler this fall behind linebackers Ricky Brewer and Mychal Sisson. His 76 tackles included 44 solo stops and 2 1/2 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He also has one of the Rams' four interceptions this season.
"I think he continues to get better and better, and he works hard at it, he really does," said Larry Lewis, who coaches CSU's safeties. "It matters to him, and that's what I like about him. He's serious about being good."
He's serious about his work at Respite Care, though, too, Lewis has learned through his neice, who is on the staff there.
"I think what he brings to that group of kids is special, too, because he's a fun-loving kid, and he's a guy they can look up to. And he's not just a male role model, but also an African-American role model."
Herd spends six hours every Monday through Thursday performing a variety of duties at Respite Care, then races off to attend meetings before CSU's daily practices. He sometimes stops by on Monday afternoons, the team's day off from practice, to meet and play with some of the older kids who are in school during his normal work hours.
It's become much more than just a step toward his college degree.
"He's taken a genuine interest," Fairchild said. "I know that started with our community service, but he's kind of taken it to the next level. That's a great cause, and I'm just really proud of him for doing that."