Cade Campbell high-fives students at the end of an Athletes of Character convocation at Pendleton Intermediate School.

PENDLETON — An Athlete of Character representing Pendleton Heights, Cade Campbell can remember the elementary school convocation where he met his school’s Athletes of Character.

“It was a great experience. It kind of brought back some memories, kind of put me back in their footsteps,” Campbell said.

Now a senior, Campbell played this fall as a lineman for the Arabians on the football field and will be on the mat this winter wrestling for the school.

He was one of 36 athletes chosen from the six public schools in Madison County to be a 2019-20 Athlete of Character.

Athletes are chosen by the school’s athletic director, coaching staff and administrators based on how well they exemplify the “Six Pillars of Character”: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.

The program, in its 18th year, is sponsored by the Madison County YMCA.

Retired YMCA Director Dan Sager brought the idea to Madison County after hearing about a similar program used by a YMCA in Iowa.

“It’s really a good feeling for the program to see the athletes grow up and go to college, then go into the workforce,” Sager said.

“We’ve been fortunate to have six or seven Athletes of Character that have become teachers in our school systems in the county.”

Sager and retired Anderson University athletic director and basketball coach Barrett Bates coordinate the program.

During the convocations students get a chance to meet each athlete from their school, ask them questions and receive a trading card for each as the athletes lead a discussion on the Pillars of Character.

“Kids ask questions about their involvement with school and athletics, and that’s all important,” Sager said. “But hitting every time that we can with a chance of building these students’ character is really what it’s all about.”

Local photographer Dale Pickett has donated his time since the start of the program by traveling to each of the six schools for photo shoots to create the trading cards and a poster.

Follow Don Knight on Twitter @donwknight, or call 765-622-1212, ext. 204567.

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