The drive to transform neighborhoods, create nonprofits and support close-to-the-heart causes makes these individuals stand out in the eyes of their peers.
Paul Bryson started playing ball at Edward O’Malley Athletic Association, 144 Moore St., at age 5 and coaching at 13. In fact, the whole Bryson clan spent most of its time at the athletic haven.
“It kept the family out of trouble,” the native of the 400 block of Winton Street said. “It was something for us to do in the community.”
As a teen, he refereed hockey at EOM and umpired the summer baseball league at Burke Playground, Second and Jackson streets — in between playing his own hockey, baseball and football games. During the school year, he would try to squeeze in a snooze between school and practice.
“Sometimes I didn’t have a cat nap,” the St. John Neumann High School, 2600 Moore St., and Lincoln Technical Institute grad said. “I’d go right down to football. ... I was always on the run from the time I got up to the time I went to bed.”
With his day job as community relations officer at the 1st District, 2301 S. 24th St., Bryson, who resides on the 2600 block of South Front Street with wife Patty, has sacrificed his vacation time to ensure he rarely missed a game.
“They’re usually used up for baseball, football, basketball,” he said of his requested days off. “I really don’t take vacation. I sacrifice my vacation days for the kids, which didn’t go well with my wife.”
Although he has been taking a break from coaching since 2011, Bryson, 45, had the gig as EOM’s baseball and softball coordinator for about two decades. He even relaunched its softball program, which was eliminated in the 1980s.
“My daughter played baseball,” the father of four said of Chelsea, now 18, who played with the boys until age 14. “It was no longer feasible. [The girls] shouldn’t be playing baseball with the boys. They should have their own division.”
The program, for which Bryson completed scheduling and tryouts, has expanded from four teams in its inaugural year to 23 today.
“It was in the blood,” he said of his devotion to EOM. “My father taught us to give back to the community. He did for almost his entire life. He was treasurer for three decades.”
The Whitman resident made his commitment clear by not just coaching for his own children, but ensuring every child who had a desire to play had that chance.
“I never wanted to pat myself on the back,” Bryson said. “It’s always for the kids in the community.”
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