One-man volleyball team delivers strong message

Bob Holmes visits Crook County High School to deliver his 'Beat the Odds' message

KEVIN SPERL - Bob Holmes takes on the Cowgirls' volleyball team during his appearance at Crook County High School last Thursday, bringing his message to 'Beat the Odds' to the students. He met rare defeat on the court.

Bob Holmes is a one-man volleyball team, registered with Ripley’s Believe it or Not as playing more games than any athlete in any sport, recording over 16,000 wins and less than 400 losses against fully-manned teams across the country.

Holmes came to Crook County High School last Thursday to demonstrate his prowess on the court, while at the same time conveying his message about the dangers of drunk driving, texting while driving, suicide and peer bullying.

But first he took on an opponent whose ability on the volleyball court was something he did not expect — the Crook County girls’ volleyball team.

Assistant Principal Rob Bonner introduced Holmes, saying that “Holmes has gone up against the Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, and the Baltimore Orioles, beating them all.”

But, he couldn’t beat the Cowgirls, who prevailed 25 to 18, still an impressive showing on Holmes’ part.

Next up were the boys — a collection of athletes from various teams. The game was close, with Holmes in the lead until apparently spurring them on to a 27 to 25 win by offering them $50 each if they pulled through. Only afterwards did he explain that his offer was to be paid in “Monopoly money.”

It was a rare double defeat for Holmes.

“In visiting 4,700 schools, I have never lost twice in a row,” he declared to the assembly, soliciting cheers from the crowd. “But, if I beat the teachers the whole school will have no homework in any class!”

Holmes did manage to save face, beating the adults 21 to 17, but there was no confirmation that Thursday was a homework-free day.

As much as Holmes’ on-court antics elicited cheers, his message of suicide and drunk driving quieted the crowd of students to a mere whisper.

“Texting and driving kills 27-times more people than drinking,” he said. “I know of one accident where a boy was texting and ran into the back of a semi-truck. They found him with his hands still wrapped around his phone and his head in the back seat.”

It was this frank, and at times graphic, talk that grabbed the students’ attention, words that Holmes backed up with horrific pictures of accident scenes.

Holmes was brought to the school courtesy of Andi Buerger, executive director of Redmond-based Beulah’s Place, a nonprofit shelter for the homeless, and teens at risk of abuse, trafficking and other criminally exploitative activities in Central Oregon.

“We safe house them and work to get them back into high school,” she said. “Our residents must agree to complete school, get a job, and take classes to be on a path to sustainable life.”

Buerger knows first hand the challenges faced by those that are abused, freely admitting that she first thought of suicide when she was 5-years-old.

“When your birth mother says your days are numbered and you are sexually tortured, you think of killing yourself regardless of age” she said. “I distinctly remember sitting on the curb waiting for a car to come by fast enough that would kill me.”

But, it wasn’t meant to be. Buerger said that not one car came down the street and she attributes her survival that day to God.

“God just interceded somehow and made me believe that there was something better if I waited long enough,” she said. “I vowed that because I lived through that day, I would do whatever I was called to do so that no one else would experience what I did.”

Buerger believes in Holmes’ message and the fact that he can bring it to today’s youth, saying when she was young, people didn’t talk about such things as suicide.

Holmes told stories of a girl who was bullied to get into a car with others that had been drinking. An accomplished piano player, the girl was thrown through the windshield when the car hit a tree, severing all of her fingers, never to play music again.

Holmes talked about another boy who had been drinking so much that he took a hot poker to his baby brother, burning over 80 holes in his body.

“Why am I on this court?” he asked the students “I don’t do it for the game, I do it because I want life and joy. I want someone in this country to turn things around and give someone special a hand.”

Holmes told the students that they have the power to stop bullying, becoming a person who encourages rather than discourages others.

“How many of you believe that one life is everything,” Holmes asked the students, who reacted with loud applause. “Then never give up and always look ahead.”

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