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EDH family ties vacation plans with teaching sports, helping others

By: Matt Long
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Mark Spring and his family have taken some memorable vacations this summer. Using sports as a way to assist underprivileged youth, the Springs recently returned from Jordan and Israel after helping out at a lacrosse camp and next month will be in Bar, Montenegro, working with the Balkan Basketball Diplomacy Project, which is sponsored by the U.S. State Department and Georgetown University. Spring, 44, lives in El Dorado Hills with his wife, Sheila, daughters Arielle, 15, and Nicole, 13, and son, Julius, 8. During the vacation to Israel, Spring, a former standout lacrosse player in high school, who also played two years at Georgetown University in the 1980s, along with his daughters, helped teach the game to Israel youth. Through Israel Lacrosse, an organization committed to developing the sport in the country, the Springs were able to help out at the camp. “I was on the Internet just looking up information for a vacation and I saw this about Israel Lacrosse and wondered if we should bring our sticks,” Spring said. “I contacted Israel Lacrosse and they invited us to come help. It was a great time. I’ve done a lot of coaching, but this was the first time I had to deal with a language barrier.” Spring said they were able to show the kids, about 20 or so in fifth and sixth grade, a lot of what they were trying to teach, but often times found the boy who understood English the best to translate into Hebrew for the rest of the group. “Lacrosse is a great sport and we’re just trying to give a little bit back,” Spring said. “It was a great opportunity to help the kids and also a good opportunity for my daughters.” “It was amazing and so much fun,” said Arielle, who will be a sophomore at Oak Ridge this fall and is also a member of the high school lacrosse team. “It was a cool experience. They didn’t know anything about lacrosse and it was neat to teach them the game. Being at the children’s home where there are kids whose parents can’t take care of them, it was just very enlightening.” Spring and his youngest daughter, Nicole, will be in Bar, Montenegro, this time using basketball to reach underprivileged kids. “I’m really excited and I think it will be a lot of fun,” said Nicole before leaving. “It will be very different over there, and I will learn a lot about their culture. Seeing the kids in Israel makes me appreciate what I have and I feel fortunate for what I have. The best part is bringing smiles to their faces.” Spring, whose basketball background includes assisting Mike Wall and Frank Horwath at Folsom High from 2000-2002 and again from 2006-2009, is excited about the trip to the Balkans. He’s helped sponsor the Balkan Basketball Diplomacy Project in the past, but this year will be there helping to coach. “We will be bringing in underprivileged kids from different ethnic and religious backgrounds from various parts of the Balkan region and helping to teach them basketball skills, while at the same time helping to teach them to break down ethnic differences through basketball,” said Spring. “It’s a coed camp with about 30 boys and 20 girls from five or six different countries. It’s just another opportunity to make a difference. It’s not just basketball. We have the opportunity to develop relationships outside of basketball and that will mean we have a chance to make a bigger impact on their lives.”