By Jackie Stone

The Cove Herald

Heavy rains may have kept some people at home over the weekend, but a handful of the Dawgs youngest fans braved the weather Saturday for a chance to read a good book with their gridiron heroes.

Coming in out of the rain with her grandmother, 8-year-old Cameron Dewald wriggled out of her rain slicker. The dark blue Dawgs football tee-shirt underneath showed was clear for a moment before she ran to grab one of the chairs in the children's section of the Copperas Cove Public Library.

About a dozen kids and their parents gathered around the deep-cushioned grey chair where Copperas Cove High School senior and Bulldawgs defensive end Dustin Walker sat waiting to kick off the second Reading with the Dawgs story hour at the Copperas Cove Public Library.

"Red Rubber Boot Day, by Mary Lyn Ray," Walker said, opening the brightly colored childrens' book with a practiced hand as a hush fell over his audience.

Saturday was the second story hour of the library's new program, Reading with the Dawgs. Groups of about five Dawgs players will read to children at the library every Saturday at 2:30 during football season, with the last scheduled story hour on Nov. 7. The story hour is part of the annual community service project the team does every year.

"It's not just on the football field – we've got to show that we're leaders everywhere. Even when we don't have the jerseys on," said Dawgs' runningback Will Wright after his turn reading.

Assistant Coach Tracy Welch leads the community service project and brought the idea of the story hour to Library Director Margaret Handrow. Handrow immediately saw an opportunity to bring the community back to the library.

"Out here, Copperas Cove loves their Bulldawgs, so what better thing to do than bring football to the library and let kids get a free story from some of their local hometown heroes?" Handrow said. "Anything that can get kids into the library and reading is all to the good."

Welch said the players also read to kids at the elementary schools and really enjoy reading to and answering questions from their younger fans.The experience and joy was evident on Saturday, as the players eagerly waited for their turn in the spotlight to read and answer questions.

"It's something new, and it's getting involved in the community,"

Wright said.

"I really like hearing the little kids laugh," said defensive back Matthew Garrett.

"And their comments and stuff, and the questions they have," said cornerback Deneldric Hudgens.

"It takes your mind off things," said offensive lineman Mitch Davisson.

"It's like a stress reliever," Wright said.

The question and answer time after the readings are popular, and not with just the children and the players.

"The first time we had a reading time, then we had a question time, it seemed like the adults probably had more questions that than the kids had," Welch said. "Things like who their favorite players were."

The first Reading with the Dawgs was held Aug. 29. Handrow said if the story hour continues becoming a hit, she hopes to expand the program to include other groups such as the basketball team.

As the story hour wound down Saturday, the kids all got a chance to shake hands with and talk to the players before they left. Myrt Williams of Kempner patiently waited for her excited granddaughter to finish.

"I didn't know anything about it until last night. She told me about it," Williams said.

Cameron Dewald came back to her grandmother, and said when asked that she definitely wants to come back next week.

"I'm going to have to see if my dad's going to take me," Dewald said.

"That or grandma," Williams replied as she helped Dewald back into her slicker before braving the rain again.

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