Henrico County VA

Band of brothers

'Warriors' group aims for guidance, not goals
Among the Varsity Warriors who attended the May 5 spring breakfast were (from left) front row, kneeling – Tyler Howell and Brooks Ohman and back row – Rocky Marrin, Tom Bostwick, Colin Bennett, Jason Puckett, Max Huntley, and Jacob Butler.
Rocky Marrin spent 30 years of his life on a spending spree. Now he's on a mission not only to return the goods, but to help others avoid his buyer's remorse.

"I was buying what the world was selling," Marrin said of the three-decade period when his world revolved around climbing the corporate ladder, owning a nice home and cars, and seeking enjoyment in "drinking buddies, golf, sports, and women."

Yes, he went to church once a week, Marrin said; but all he had to show at the end of those 30 years was "a broken marriage, hurt and angry children, and a ton of confusion in every other area of my life."

In February 2010, after eight years in a men's Bible study, Marrin's prayers about a group that would help others avoid his mistakes evolved into a vision, and he founded White Hot Ministries. The fledgling organization works with both adult men and high school seniors in weekly study sessions in which members, using scripture as a guide, discuss feelings such as insecurity, pride, and fear, and topics such as addictions, dating and marriage.

On May 5, several Deep Run High School seniors attended the GodStrong Men spring breakfast at The Place at Innsbrook, and testified to the impact that their study group, known as the Varsity Warriors, has had on their lives.

Nothing to show for it
At the breakfast, the students heard from Pastor Calvin Duncan, who played basketball for Virginia Commonwealth University and later passed up a promising career in the NBA to join Athletes in Action, a Christian traveling team and sports ministry.

Now the pastor at Faith & Family Church in Richmond, Duncan told the crowd at the breakfast that if not for a woman on Grace Street who shared the gospel with him while he was at VCU, he might have chosen a different path.

Raised by an aunt with a sixth grade education after his mother died in childbirth, Duncan called himself a "typical inner city kid. I loved basketball; I didn't value education." In his junior year of high school, he dated a girl whose mother was a drug dealer, so he was always around gangsters and drugs.

But his aunt made him go to church, and basketball got him out of the inner city (although after a placement test pegged him at a fourth grade reading level, he had to detour to Oak Hill Academy on his way to VCU).

Duncan told the audience that he has never regretted his decision to pass up the pros, and quoted an observer who said, "Calvin turned out better than all these guys who played in the NBA, made millions of dollars, and have nothing to show for it."

"The Lord is our coach," Duncan told the crowd, comparing the Bible to the play books he once used in basketball. "You have to know the plays if you want to be successful in the game of life.

"I once was recruited to play basketball. Now I recruit sinners to be saved."

Sharing faith
Duncan was one of many speakers who have inspired the DRHS students at group get-togethers throughout the year, said Tom Bostwick, citing among other favorites Buddy Childress of Needle's Eye Ministries and Bill Janis, former Virginia delegate.

"I really look forward to [the weekly meetings]," said Bostwick. "The fellowship together, sharing problems, and having people help you with it."

"It's awesome to hear the different ways people come to God, and the different paths they take," said Colin Bennett, one of the students who helped Marrin recruit seniors for the study group. "They've all had different journeys, but they're all on the same path now."

Like Marrin, and his classmate Max Huntley, Bennett is a member at Shady Grove United Methodist Church. So once Marrin's plan for Varsity Warriors had taken shape, he was quick to approach Bennett and Huntley for help with recruitment.

"You don't find a lot of guys 17 or 18 years old who are willing to step out and share their faith," Marrin told the crowd at the breakfast, adding that he originally hoped for 12 students to sign on, and perhaps eight to attend regularly.

But some 16 seniors, on average, have attended the meetings at Marrin's home -- and are now recruiting juniors to form next year's group. Although all are students at DRHS, they hail from seven different churches.

The men also take turns leading the weekly lesson and "wrapping Scripture around it," said Marrin. "I haven't led a lesson since the second week in December."

Roots-up growth
Although all of the Varsity Warriors attend the same high school, they vary greatly in their interests and activities outside of the group.

Bostwick plays lacrosse and will head to DePaul in the fall to study history. Tyler Howell works at Chick-Fil-A and will study business at James Madison University. Jason Puckett, a basketball player, will study business at Virginia Tech, and Bennett, who works at Chick-Fil-A, will attend University of Maryland. A member of the golf team, Huntley works at Daylight Donuts and will major in global affairs at George Mason University.

But all of the seniors agree on one thing: Varsity Warriors has brought them closer, and has helped prepare them to make better choices in life.

"As we're maturing, we're learning," said Jacob Butler. "It's a good combination to make good decisions."

"I feel like I take time to think before I do things, and I pray over things more," agreed Howell, adding that he feels "refreshed" after leaving Varsity Warriors meetings. "It's a support system."

"It's helped me with stress, and school work, and managing time," said Brooks Ohman. "And it's helped me grow very close to my friends."

As Huntley pointed out, "We were all friends before, but we've gotten closer friends, through God and religion."

Studying scripture together builds tighter bonds than those of a typical friendship, agreed Bennett. "When you come together through Christ, it's not a superficial growth," he said. "It's more roots-up --- a stronger, sturdy growth."

Lofty goals
Although Marrin has already looked into establishing Varsity Warrior groups in other high schools and cities, and many of the students plan to form groups at their colleges, his vision for the organization is considerably more ambitious.

"We want to take this," he told the breakfast audience, "to every high school in the country."

Marrin and his wife, Leslie (who cooks for the senior men and talks to them about prom night and dating topics), also hope to expand the groups to include women. Leslie is organizing a senior girls study group, and the couple is actively seeking leaders to help spread groups of both genders to other high school campuses.

But even in its infancy, Varsity Warriors has had a tremendous impact on 16 lives already.

"When Colin and Max came to me [about Varsity Warriors]," Bostwick said, "I had no idea what I was getting into. I went to church every week and thought my faith was pretty strong. Now we've all grown together, and I'm so thankful. Varsity Warriors is a big part of my life."

Being a high school senior, Bennett mused, he knows a lot of people -- most of whom will not be a part of his life for much longer. But because of Varsity Warriors, Bennett said, "There are 15 people my age that I know I'll be friends with my whole life. Because when you share your faith, it's a good foundation."

As Howell addressed the crowd, he noted that Varsity Warriors has helped him overcome a number of fears -- including the fear of public speaking that he had to overcome to get up on stage.

"[Varsity Warriors] has been a steadfast rock in my life when so many things are flying by," Howell said, adding that even when he was away from the group, the support of other members felt like "a backpack of friends and family" on his back.

"I will miss Mondays with Varsity Warriors -- and Leslie's cooking," Howell concluded with a smile.

"We truly became a family this year."

For details about Varsity Warriors and White Hot Ministries visit http://www.godstrongmen.org email, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or call 912-6263. The fall breakfast is scheduled for Oct. 13 and Boyd Dowler, who played tight end under Vince Lombardi, will be the featured speaker.
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Community

Tournament supports adoption efforts

Among participants at the Seventh Annual Coordinators2Inc Golf Tournament and awards luncheon Oct. 3 were (from left) Rebecca Ricardo, C2 Inc executive director; Kevin Derr, member of the winning foursome; Sharon Richardson, C2 Inc founder; and Frank Ridgway and Jon King, members of the winning foursome.

Held at The Crossings Golf Club, the tournament will benefit placement of children from Virginia's foster care system into permanent families through Coordinators2. > Read more.

A.C. Moore to host winter craft day for kids

Event will help kick of Marine Corps' 'Toys for Tots' campaign
All 140 A.C. Moore locations will serve as drop-off centers this year for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, and all toys collected will stay in the local communities served by the stores in which they are donated.

On Saturday, Nov. 15, the Willow Lawn location will kick off the month-long program by hosting a "Make & Take" craft event for kids. Children ages six and older will be able to make a craft and take it home with them. Representatives from the Marines will be in-store to teach customers about the Toys for Tots program. A.C. Moore team members will be on site to help with the crafts. > Read more.

CCC seeks donations for food pantry

Commonwealth Catholic Charities is in desperate need of food donations for its community food pantry that serves the region’s low-income families, according to officials with the Henrico-based nonprofit.

After moving into its new location this past summer, the agency has dedicated a larger space for the pantry but the shelves are practically empty.

“As we head into the holidays and the weather turns colder, the need for food becomes even more critical, but unfortunately our cupboards are nearly bare,” said Jay Brown, the agency’s director for the division of housing services. “Donations of food will allow us help provide.” > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


For our Top 10 calendar events this weekend, click here! > Read more.

A ‘Life’ well lived

Animated ‘Book of Life’ overcomes average storyline with extraordinary presentation, details
“Beauty is only skin deep” applies all too well to The Book of Life. An animated feature from first-time director Jorge R. Gutierrez, The Book of Life spins a classic love triangle – two childhood friends, Manolo (Diego Luna) and Joaquin (Channing Tatum) both in love with Maria (Zoe Saldana).

Maria, in all honesty, is a little more interested in Manolo’s musical charms, but her father wants her to marry the boastful and militaristic Joaquin. And when two gods, La Muerte and Xibalba (Kate de Castillo and Ron Perlman, respectively), turn this little love triangle into a wager (as gods often do), Manolo’s quest for true love will take him through life, death, immortality and the underworlds of Mexican folklore.

Now, back to the “beauty” part – because as far as the visuals go, The Book of Life is the most extraordinary animated film to hit theaters this year. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


The holiday season is underway and Lakeside Avenue has everything you need during its 10th annual Holly Jolly Christmas event! Shoppers will enjoy extended hours at several dozen shops and free trolley rides. Also this weekend, the 23rd annual Great American Indian Exposition & Pow-Wow. There will be over 200 American Indian dancers, singers, drummers, artists and crafters. In the mood for music? Check out The Gibson Brothers at UR and Susan Greenbaum at the Shady Grove Coffeehouse. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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Lavender Fields Herb Farm, 11300 Winfrey Rd., will host its Christmas Open House event from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 28-29. There will be classes, demos, fresh herbal tastings… Full text

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