Coaches Who Care

When Joe Pinnix and Kernersville Elementary School (KES) fifth grader Khalil McRae first met two years ago through the Coaches Who Care program at the school, they hit it off once they learned they had a common interest in wrestling.
Since that time, both Pinnix and Khalil have learned a lot from each other.
Pinnix explained that he first started volunteering through the program about seven years ago as a way to give back.
“I just love children and my grandchildren are not close by, so I thought I could volunteer and help,” he said. “It’s beneficial to me as much as it is to the student.”
Pinnix said he and Khalil meet once a week during lunch, which Khalil always looks forward to, not only to have a friend to hang out with, but also because Pinnix brings him Chick-fil-A.
“We’ve gotten to be good buddies,” Pinnix remarked.
Khalil said he enjoys having Pinnix come because he knows there is someone that will come and eat with him.
During their time together, Pinnix and Khalil said they talk about a variety of things, including superheroes, wrestling, basketball and school, particularly the subjects of math and science. Khalil noted that his favorite superheroes are Spiderman and Nightwing.
After volunteering with a student for one year, Pinnix noted that the student can choose whether or not to stay with the same coach the following year, and after asking Khalil what he wanted to do, Pinnix said Khalil asked him to return as his coach.
Khalil, Pinnix and Khalil’s mom all noted the difference having a mentor has been for Khalil.
“I’ve noticed I’ve been doing better in school because he encourages me to work hard, and because he’s mayor (pro tem), he wants me to be a leader too,” Khalil said.
Khalil’s mom, Tanisha McRae, said she has noticed that Khalil has taken an interest in politics since being paired with Pinnix.
“I remember when Joe was running for office again. We were watching the bottom of the screen at home and (Khalil) was excited to see (Pinnix’s) name,” she shared.
Pinnix added, “I’ve noticed that from last year he is a little less shy.”
A short time after the two met last year, Pinnix said what broke the ice was their common interest in wrestling.
“He found out I knew something about wrestling and he couldn’t believe I knew some of these guys’ names,” he shared. “It’s like it broke the ice and we were on the same level.”
One of the things that Pinnix was surprised and delighted to learn about Khalil was his Cadillac Project, which Khalil started when he was six-years-old. He added that he named the project Cadillac Project because of the nickname his late great grandfather Thomas Murphy gave him just a few days after he was born.
“He gave me my first nickname ever. He gave me that name because he said a Cadillac was a pretty strong American made car and that I was the strongest and prettiest baby he’d ever seen,” Khalil shared.
Khalil explained that when he was younger, when he would see someone who was homeless on the side of the road, he would ask his mom for some change to give to them; however, because she didn’t really carry much cash, they couldn’t give the people much more than that.
“My mom thought that we could come up with a better way to help the homeless and I came up with the idea to give them fruit and water and put it in a brown paper bag,” he said.
Khalil noted that he and his mom have a specific route they take where they know there are people in need, which usually is around Hanes Mall, the interstate and near the homeless shelters.
This year, with the help of Pinnix, Khalil said they were able to give out toboggans and gloves.
“Since it got cold, we started giving out toboggans and gloves so they would have something to keep them warm because you know the climate can get pretty harsh this time of year,” Khalil said, noting that his mom makes the logos that they put on the paper bags.
Khalil noted that shortly after they were giving out fruit and water, they decided to add a larger selection of items to the brown paper bags.
“We used to deliver the bags only on Fridays and Saturdays, but now that it’s cold and we can leave the food in the car, we can deliver them anytime,” he said. “These people are starving and maybe we are able to make them happy and help them stay full and warm. I feel bad seeing people out there like that.”
Khalil said he recently met a disabled veteran who was homeless, and it broke his heart to see him out on the streets.
“He served and did all of that for our country and he’s out there freezing. It breaks my heart,” he remarked. “When we gave him one of the bags, he told us that was just what he needed.”
Tanisha added that she has always stressed to Khalil that regardless of their situation, there is someone that is worse off and that they can always find a way to give back or pay it forward.
Pinnix said he only learned about Khalil’s Cadillac Project this year.
“When he told me about it, I just thought it was one of the sweetest and most compassionate stories for a little boy that young to do and it was his idea,” Pinnix said. “I was just so overwhelmed. There’s really a lot of hope for the young people in this country. You talk to a young person like Khalil and you know there is hope, and you hope he has set an example.”
KES Social Worker Lisa May explained that Coaches Who Care is a mentoring program that was started in conjunction with the Kernersville Chamber of Commerce and KES to provide mentoring services to the children of KES. They currently have 19 coaches but are looking for more men and women from the community to volunteer.
It is requested that volunteers come once a week for at least 30 minutes, and while most volunteers come during lunch, it is not required that they come at that time. Other volunteers have come and read to students, and in a previous year, Coach Russ Gray did a yearlong engineering project with a student.
Students in the program are recommended by a teacher and then set up with a coach by May.
Those who are interested in volunteering should contact May at KES at 336-703-4100 to become an approved volunteer for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system.

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