Archdeacon: ‘Just an usher’ at UD Arena thanks students for good deed

OTTAWA — As the old saying goes: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Richard Keehn soon realized the revelatory treasure he was getting a couple of months ago, immediately following the Division III state championship boys’ basketball game.

Ottawa Glandorf had just lost to Lutheran East, but the school, and the Putnam County community it’s in, would be going home champions in his eyes.

“I tell you what, all you hear about in the news anymore is the bad stuff kids do, but these students were just the opposite,” said the UD Arena usher from Miamisburg.

In a Samaritan act he had not expected, he watched some Ottawa Glandorf students — especially seven junior girls in gold OG shirts, five of them wearing ripped-at-the-knee jeans that are in style now — pick up all the trash left beneath the seats and in the aisles where Titans fans had been sitting.

There were lots of discarded newspapers, the prop the Blue Crew — the OG student section similar to the Dayton Flyers’ Red Scare — holds in front of their faces to show disinterest during the pregame introductions of opposing players. There were foam No. 1 fingers and cardboard signs held up to designate a three-point shot or defense. And of course, there was the litter of concession stand leftovers.

“I worked just about all the games of the boys’ tournament and the entire girls’ tournament the week before and the kids from Ottawa Glandorf were the only ones I saw do that,” Keehn said. “Their school, their community, their parents — they all should be proud of them.”

The 71-year-old retiree was so impressed by the efforts of the seven girls — Lauren Niese, Bailey Krouse, Bri Douglass, Amerie Young, Myka Aldrich, Mackenzie Recker and Claire Brickner — that he had them pose for a photo he took on his phone. He told them he wanted to send it to their principal.

He typed a letter praising the girls — and a few boys he saw helping — and sent it to OG principal Ann Ellerbrock. He signed it “Just an Usher.”

He printed the photo he took and sent it FedEx to the school.

And then he got seven red Dayton Flyers shirts and made the 90-minute drive to Ottawa to give the girls the tokens of appreciation as Ellerbrock, superintendent Don Horstman and athletics director and boys basketball coach Tyson McGlaughlin looked on.

In return, some of the girls had gone to a local shop that sells OG souvenirs and gotten him a cap and a Titans towel.

Just as Keehn had been impressed with the students, the folks at Ottawa Glandorf were moved by him.

“It was obvious from his letter the gentleman had typed it on his typewriter,” Horstman said. “This wasn’t just a quick email. Then he made the drive, that struck all of us.

“He signed the letter “Just an Usher,” but with what Ann tries to do with the kids here in school and Tyson tries to do with the athletic department, we don’t want our kids to ever give anybody the impression, you’re ‘just an usher.’”

‘It’s just something everybody should do’

This was finals week at Ottawa Glandorf and within days summer vacation would begin and, with it, summer jobs — working at nearby nursing homes, the local ice cream shop, the pool at the YMCA, a grocery store, a clothing boutique in town — for all the girls.

But Principal Ellerbrock was able to round up the seven during a lunch break between tests the other day.

All of them are athletes in different sports at the school, but they seemed a little surprised, even embarrassed, that someone else had made the trek from Dayton to acknowledge their efforts from two months ago, something they had done without prompting at other games, as well.

“We didn’t expect to get recognized, it’s just something everybody should do,” Bailey Krouse said. “I think people thought it was good that we did that, but we should clean it up. A lot of the trash and all those newspapers were ours.”

Lauren Niese agreed: “We got the opportunity to go down there and we represent who OG is. We’re a good school. We don’t want to show bad sides of us and leave (the Arena) in worse shape than we found it.”

The students said this attitude is something that’s been nurtured in them at school and at home by their parents.

After OG football games, students have watched Ellerbrock and McLaughlin going through the bleachers picking up trash.

“This is kind of a message we’ve been sending when we have our class meetings at the beginning of each year,” Ellerbrock said. “It’s an expectation.

“At games on the road where they’re wearing our varsity coats and OG t-shirts, they’re an extension of all of us. They represent Ottawa Glandorf. They represent our community. We challenge them to do it the right way.”

McGlaughlin, who was once a star basketball player at OG himself and has taken the past three Titans teams to the Final Four and won the state crown in 2013, explained it:

“This is something we take a great deal of pride in. We want to hold our kids accountable.

“We want to be able to showcase our kids on the highest stage, but being from a small town you don’t always get the same amount of opportunities as some people. So when we do get a chance, we don’t take it for granted. We want to make the most of it in every way possible.”

Ellerbrock recounted a phone call she got from a restaurant manager in Bowling Green after a Titans’ tournament game in town:

“Our kids had stopped to get something to eat and he wanted me to know, ‘Your kids did a phenomenal job. They knew how to treat their server. They left a tip. They didn’t leave a mess.’”

McGlaughlin said it has to do with a lot more than just leaving a good impression:

“These are all small things, but they go a long way to setting the bar for our future students and the expectations that are set for them. Hopefully, it’s something we can continue to grow upon. And that’s what we should do.

“They come in here as kids and we want them to graduate as young men and young women.”

Working at UD Arena, Dragons’ games

Keehn worked much of his life at printing companies following his graduation from Beavercreek High School.

“When I retired, my Bucket List included becoming an usher at the Dayton Dragons,” he said.

When COVID canceled the 2020 season, his Dragons’ debut was delayed a year. And not long after he started working at the minor league ballpark, a fellow usher suggested he look at ushering at Dayton Flyers basketball games in the winter.

At UD Arena, there are times he helps check bags of fans before the games and, on a few occasions, he’s filled in taking tickets. Mostly, he patrols one section of the arena, helping people with their needs, while also setting boundaries between them and the action on the court.

After the games though, it’s the ushers’ jobs to pick up the trash in the section that had been under their purview.

“Most of us ushers are pretty old,” he said with a laugh. “So those kids helping us out was more appreciated than you know.”

In his letter to Ellerbrock, he told her how during the girls’ tournament — district, regional, state — he had worked 22 games in a row and nearly as many with the boys.

But what he appreciated more than the way the students removed the trash was how they erased blanket assumptions about kids out on their own, when no one from home is watching:

“They represented their school and their families really well.”

When he went up to Ottawa, he said he was surprised to find out the seven, whom he thought were seniors, were all juniors:

“I told them, ‘Well, that’s good! Then you all can come back next year.’

“And their basketball coach was standing there and he said, ‘That sounds like a good idea to me!’”

McGlaughlin knows, in the stands at UD Arena — any maybe on the court, too — they would show themselves as champions.

For Ottawa Glandorf, that’s the treasure of the trip.

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