Tired of hearing about athletes behaving badly? Then consider Bentley University quarterback Danny Guadagnoli a breath of fresh air.
Guadagnoli, a standout football, basketball, and baseball player at Framingham High (class of 2009), has been nominated for the 2013 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which recognizes the community service work of college football players. Winners will be announced in September.
“I’ve progressively gotten more involved with volunteer work in my time at Bentley, but you don’t do it with an award in mind,” said Guadagnoli, a 22-year-old redshirt junior who passed for 2,344 yards and 16 touchdowns for the 8-2 Falcons last season.
Since the spring, Guadagnoli, along with several of his teammates at Bentley, has tried to make the day a little better for veterans at a Boston homeless shelter.
“It’s been an eye-opener to see how many there are, men and women of all ages, some as young as me,” said Guadagnoli, who carries a 3.77 grade point average as an economics and finance major. “They’re eating crackers in a soup kitchen. A lot of them you see on the side of the street.”
At first, Guadagnoli did not know what to expect. As he served meals to the veterans, he got to know them better.
“They like to shoot the breeze,” he said. “We talk sports. They’d ask, ‘Are you guys football players?’ and they’d tell you, ‘I used to play.’ ”
‘It’s been an eye-opener to see how many there are, men and women of all ages, some as young as me. . . A lot of them you see on the side of the street.’
Guadagnoli and his teammates were told that some of the homeless vets had bad tempers and alcohol problems.
“But a lot of them were kind, good people,” he said. “They had smiles on their faces. They were just trying to make the most of their day.”
He said he saw at first hand the unfairness of their lives.
“You had a better sense of gratitude for your own life,” he said.
Through the Team IMPACT program, Guadagnoli has also befriended a 10-year-old boy from Chelmsford, Will Bush, who has serious medical problems, as does his sister, Sasha, 7. Guadagnoli has become deeply involved with the children the last three months, and stays in touch with their mother, Stefani.
“It’s one of the most significant things I’ve ever done,” said Guadagnoli. “Both of the kids got to me. The courage they have, they’re living in the moment. They’re funny, smart, and inspiring.”
Sasha and Will often have to wear masks indoors to protect against germs. But at the Bentley football field they were able to run around breathing the air without them.
“They loved it,” said Guadagnoli.
Their mother said of the football player, “He’s so good with the kids. He really has put himself in our family situation and enjoys being part of it. He’s got a good heart.”
Guadagnoli’s volunteer work also extends to the nonprofit tutoring service Pax Populi, which strives to obtain grants to tutor university students in Afghanistan.
His volunteer work, in exposing him to people devoting their lives to serving others, has given him pause to contemplate his future after college.
“I think that’s something I’ve had in me, the desire to help other people,” he said. “Seeing people who struggle can’t help but put things on perspective.”
As for football?
“It can only teach you certain life lessons,” he said.Lenny Megliola can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.