Wayne Soares = A Big Hug

 East Falmouth Values Last a Lifetime

"When I think of Wayne, I just think of a big hug."  So said my mom Donna Stone when describing famous Falmouthite Wayne Soares.  True enough.  Wayne's magnetic personality and super-sized smile spread an automatic hug to anyone he encounters. 

My house growing up in Fisherman's Cove in East Falmouth was a big brown gambrel that had a large concrete patio in the backyard.  The garage had its obligatory basketball hoop on it, and Wayne was a constant on that court, day and night, practicing his basketball craft.  I can remember when it would snow, Wayne would show up at all hours, asking if he could shoot hoops if he shoveled the patio and the large deck alongside.  He did.  The constant dribbling of the ball and the clang (or swish) of the ball as the shot completed became a source of support for me after my Dad died, knowing that the older and wiser Wayno was not far away.  My sister Tara recounts other fond memories of Wayne, a young man wise and caring beyond his years and determined to help the family he loved, tucking her in at night after her Dad had gone away.

Wayne still provides that kind of loving support to kids everywhere.  Whether speaking of good sportsmanship in schools across the country, sending his message of building good character over the radio, or telling jokes to raise money for a kid-centric charity, Wayne has taken the lessons of his East Falmouth neighborhood and brought them to the national stage.  He is dedicating his life to sharing the love and support he got from his family - the whole Davisville family - to prove that those childhood lessons help make good citizens.

I sat with Wayne a few weeks ago to talk about his latest venture, his second children's book titled "Are You a Good Sport?  Kids + Sports = Fun!"  During our chat, we shared laughs and memories of the old neighborhood and how growing up in a close-knit community helped shape our lives and the compassion we feel for others.  In the Cove, as in Wayne's nearby neighborhood, young families sometimes struggled, but worked hard and supported one another.  It was not uncommon to have three or more families, like the Clarksons, Palanzas, and Kapulkas, eating together and sharing good laughs, great food, and unwavering support for one another.  Wayne was often at these gatherings, where status, smarts, and material things mattered not - we were all family.  These themes are pervasive in Wayne's literary work.  "It is always fun to compete.  Be a good sport, play fair, and never cheat," advises a page in his book.  "Sportsmanship and character are one and the same. Whatever you play, be sure and learn the game," offers another.  "It's all about the kids," explained this gentle giant, his eyes glimmering with both memories of those wonderful days, and the hope that his message is reaching the thousands of kids he encounters in his life's work.  "You've got to make it fun," he continued, talking about countless activities, including a variety show he has begun, a non-competitive outlet for young people to showcase their talents and develop self-confidence.

A former minor league voice of the New York Mets, Wayne also brings his message to adults nationwide.  His new show on ESPN Radio is titled "A Walk Down Memory Lane."  Much like his work with youth, this show attempts to bring a simpler, less hurried life back into our consciousness.  It airs Saturdays and 1PM and is a great example of how the respect and familiarity Wayne learned in those early days in Fisherman's Cove help him carry the message today. 

Mom was right.  Wayne Soares personifies a big hug.  The next time a neighborhood kid asks to shoot hoops in your yard, remember that.

This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.

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