"I feel like in today's society,'' Stacie said, "kids are starting to lack respect, and I feel like if they have somebody to look up to and be a good role model, that might inspire them to be the same way.'' As a camp counselor, Stacie hopes she inspires everyone at the Myakka City Community Center. Or volunteering at the Myakka Elementary School, a place she's at "whenever I have down time at work or a day off.'' That's when she's not helping her local church or coaching in a Christian flag football and soccer league.
The many reasons Stacie proudly wore a length of twisted green and silver rope around her neck at graduation. It signified the more than 300 community service hours recorded during her four years at Lakewood Ranch. "Anything around the community or when somebody might need help,'' she said.
Didn't know any of this stuff when a friend called, pitching a story about a wonderful high school student athlete who did all the right things in 99.99 percent anonymity. What made her story so different, I asked? Like Stacie, hadn't other student athletes achieved four-year honor roll status? Like Stacie, hadn't other student athletes worked to earn college scholarships? Like Stacie, hadn't other student athletes come from broken homes, been forced to live with grandma, pay for everything -- gas, truck payment, cell phone, insurance -- from their own pocket?
Surely. But when such acts become noticed by those wanting to help, the story then assumes a higher level of goodness. It's not to say Stacie, who caught and hit .390 for the Lady Mustangs last season, wouldn't have gotten into college. College of Central Florida, a two-year community college in Ocala, extended a full ride. Mike Ribaudo thought she could do better. The former Sarasota High baseball star assisted in helping shoot and edit a video of Stacie's softball skills. He then packaged the DVDs and sent them to prospective colleges. Tennessee Wesleyan College noticed. After meeting with Stacie, the NAIA school offered her a four-year ride.
"When we watched her on the DVD,'' said Lady Bulldog softball coach Toby Brooks, "we saw quick hands, a solid swing. Everything was technically solid. "And when I got to speak with her, she was a great kid to talk to. We are big on team chemistry. Our girls just fell in love with her.''
Ribaudo helped get Stacie to Wesleyan. Another benefactor will make sure she can stay. Known by everyone around Sarasota, he doesn't want his name revealed. So his act of picking up the nearly $7,000 a year difference between Stacie's scholarship and the $26,000 required to attend Wesleyan, will have to go unnoticed. Except by the person it benefits.
"I only met him once,'' Stacie said, "and he's a great person to go give some kid he doesn't know at all help. "That's my entire future and I owe it all to him. And I admire Mike and his wife more than they know. "They are both truly blessings in my life.''