Registration time continues to draw near for teams that want compete in the Harker Heights Rotary Club fourth annual Dodgeball Challenge on Saturday at Harker Heights High School gymnasium.

Information about the tournament and registration are now available at HHROTARY.com.

The true impact of the challenge is not only in the sights and sounds of dodgeballs flying between teams who are going for the gold.

What rings louder is the laughter of children, the sight of happy faces and teenagers who have learned leadership skills and benefitted from the funds raised by teams in the challenge.

One of those is the Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) program, an intensive co-ed training experience for high school students.

Doug Babb has been a member of the Harker Heights Rotary Club since 2013 and can speak firsthand about the transformation of students who have been able to spend a week in the midst of the RYLA experience.

Babb’s daughter, Jessica, who at the time was a Harker Heights High School student, was one of those selected to attend RYLA. It was by being a part of RYLA that she learned about Rotary.

“Before I went to RYLA, I did not identify with the Rotary Club at all and was clueless about their mission and goals,”Jessica Babb said.

She told the Herald that at RYLA, she became familiar with the Rotary organization and what they were all about in addition to their values. “When I was a senior, I started the first Interact Club at HHHS, which is a Rotary equivalent at the high school level.

“We operated by the same rules and high standards that I had learned through the influence of the Heights Rotary Club.

Not only did Jessica become deeply involved in Interact as its president, but she also led her dad down the path to becoming a Rotarian.

Doug Babb said, “I was helping her with Interact and was impressed by the projects and activities they were involved in.

It was her interaction with the other students and what they were accomplishing that sold me on this organization.

“As a supportive dad, I was helping her as much as possible and one thing led to another resulting in me receiving an invitation to come to Rotary.”

“RYLA was the beginning of it all,” Jessica said. “Interact taught us how important it is to give back to the community and how we can make a difference through leadership.”

“From a parent’s perspective, this experience gave Jessica the opportunity to get involved at a younger age and energized her as a leader,” Babb said.

Jessica Babb graduated from Baylor last December with degrees in journalism and political science and is now a morning weekend anchor and reporter for KEZI-9News in Eugene, Oregon.

While at Baylor, she interned at a station in Washington, D.C., and with the morning crew at KWTX-News 10 in Waco.

“The internships in D.C. and Channel 10 were quite different but impacted me by seeing how covering local news and being a part of your community can make a difference. What I learned in RYLA is already steering my career in the direction of involvement in the community and giving back to others,”Jessica said.

“Doug and Jessica’s story is just as much about RYLA as it is about youth services provided by Heights Rotary and that includes Coats for Kids, hygiene kits for the KISD Homeless Awareness Response Program, Early Act/First Knight and others,” said Evan Hodson, coordinator of the Dodgeball Challenge. “We’re waiting to throw down the gauntlet again at any time.”

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