It is hard to fathom just how much this week’s Life in the Spotlight, Hobart High School Senior, Joey Sparks, has done for Northwest Indiana in just a short time, or describe the impact his kindness has made on the community.
But ask Joey about all he has done for Northwest Indiana, and in particular, football, and he’ll, quite humbly, tell you about how much football and the community has done for him.
For instance, ask Joey about him entering Ford’s “Go Further” Program for a $1,000 prize on behalf of a Northwest Indiana school that he did not attend, who befriended him after a game and stuck by his side when he was being treated for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and he’ll only tell you about how fortunate he is for the incredible friendships he now has.
“I have just always been told that if you’re generous that good things will come your way,” Sparks told IIMM.
And that mantra of generosity started a very young age, growing up in the same house in Hobart he always lived in, that was graciously given as a gift to his parents so they could they start their life in the city by the lakefront.
“My grandparents gave the property to my parents as a gift when they got married,” said Sparks, talking about his home and his first taste of getting back what you put in.
And what did Sparks get back when he persuaded Ford to give $1,000 and new helmets and shoulder pads to the aforementioned Northwest Indiana school, Gary West Side?
“I have made friends for a lifetime,” explained Sparks.
And it’s this notion of you get what you give, or karma if you will, that extends all the way to Sparks’ true passion in life: football; a sport Sparks credits for turning his life around.
“I've always liked football since I was little. I regret not playing earlier in my life but I was just always afraid because I've never really been the biggest guy around,” said Sparks.
And Sparks credits his now former Head Coach, Ryan Turley, for seeing the passion Joey had for football, recognizing that he was going through a tough time in school, and reaching out to him to give him the opportunity to pursue a sport he loves.
“I wasn't doing so well in school and wasn't acting myself and he (Coach Turley) thought football could help me,” explained Sparks. “Coach Turley called me down to his room my freshman year and asked me if I wanted to play because he knew it would help me become a better person and student, and he was definitely right.”
And even though the football season is over for Joey, and the cleats now hang permanently on the shelf, Sparks says he wants to be a coach or a sports agent in the future, and never plans to have football, or the notion of giving back to his community, leave his life.
“I couldn't even imagine what my life right now would be like if I didn't play football.”