Throwing for the end zone Featured

9:33am EDT July 22, 2002

Patrick Hergenroeder doesn't understand what all the buzz is about. Although he knows he is a Pillar Award honoree for his work with youth sports groups, he still contends that he's done nothing special.

Bill Dieterle disagrees.

A close friend, Dieterle nominated Hergenroeder for the award without telling him. It was Dieterle who brought to the judges' attention all the things the orthopaedic surgeon and owner of Chagrin Falls-based Hergenroeder Orthopaedic Clinic has done for the community.

Conceding his efforts are noteworthy, Hergenroeder still says he's disappointed -- he sees so much that can be done to make the world a better place, but he's only one person who can do only so much. It's that attitude that underscores the doctor's commitment to making a difference.

For instance, does someone who calls himself "nobody special" donate 500 footballs every year to underfunded athletic organizations? Hergenroeder gives 10 to 15 new footballs to between 33 and 50 high schools and organizations each year.

And does someone who argues that he is "just one person" donate autographed footballs and baseballs to area high school athletic booster clubs so they can raffle the items off to raise money for their organizations? The autographed pieces he donates have sold for $500 to $900 apiece, becoming key tools for school funding.

Hergenroeder says he doesn't have the time or the money to do all that he wishes he could, yet he finds enough time to offer free CPR training. After he read an article that said many heart attack deaths could be prevented with the use of CPR, he decided to teach it to schoolteachers, store managers, office receptionists, librarians and anyone else who comes in contact with the public every day.

Some would say that Hergenroeder has more than done his share. Yet he says he'd like to do much more.

"Your record here on Earth has to stand for itself," he says. "When you die and go into the box, nothing else goes with you."

Hergenroeder says the world is definitely a better place today than it was a hundred years ago. We continue to conquer disease; we have electricity. But, he says, it's imperative that people not take modern conveniences for granted if that trend is to continue.

"We have to excel," Hergenroeder says. "If we don't go forward, we go backward. We have to put in more than we take out and make the world better for the people who will be here after us."

Hergenroeder continues to put in more than he takes out. Each June, he lines up 14 retired Cleveland Browns players to aid area high school and college coaches with a youth football camp that trains 100 to 150 inner-city students. The former pros talk with students about drugs, drinking, smoking and the importance of staying in school.

So does Hergenroeder make a difference? It's a safe bet that the world probably seems a little better to those kids after the camps than it did before. How to reach: Hergenroeder Orthopaedic Clinic, (440) 247-2644

Courie Weston (cweston@sbnnet.com) is a reporter at SBN.