A Gift from the Heart

By Bob Hall

A big night out for me as a teenager was going bowling with my friends, and while looking back, it doesn’t seem like much, I didn’t miss what I didn’t have, as the saying goes. I was happy as long as I could participate in sports. Recently, my grandson was looking through a scrapbook from my childhood and came across the senior pictures from the Boston Globe of my Massachusetts State Championship basketball team. Listed under each photo were the player’s favorite hobbies. My grandson, Jack, said, “Grampy, yours says sports and hamburgers. They are still your favorite!”  I guess some things never change.

My parents, with moderate means, sacrificed so I could go to Brown University. I washed dishes for four years to help them pay for a great experience. When I was honored my senior year for winning the George Bulger Lowe Award as New England’s best football player, I immediately thanked my parents for their sacrifice and the opportunity they gave me to experience learning, growing, and continuing my love of athletics.

It has always been important to Robin and me to help others. I was raised that way, as was Robin, and we have been fortunate enough to have the means to do so throughout our life together. We’ve been able to support many great organizations, including Hospice, whose caring for my mother was invaluable, and a veterinary service in Providence to help people afford to adopt dogs and cats. We have also been able to support selected student-athletes better afford Worcester Academy, which I attended for two years. One of our all-time most satisfying efforts has been to support Greg Zaff in starting  SquashBusters in Providence, whose main goal is helping young people in underserved areas achieve a better life. When I knew that Greg wanted to establish SquashBusters in Providence, I immediately wanted to support his effort to improve young people’s lives, as Greg did successfully in Boston and Lawrence.

I had known Greg as a former world-class squash player who, we can confirm, defeated the number 1 ranked squash player in the country! Robin and I saw the match!

My passion for squash started in my late 30s, and I enjoyed the game as much as I enjoyed playing QB, catching and pitching, and shooting baskets! My enjoyment of playing the game evolved into becoming President of the Rhode Island Squash Association. I was also President of Brown’s Squash Alumni Association for 30 years and Racquets Chair at RI County Club for many years.

My enjoyment of squash and strong interest in supporting Greg’s leadership in establishing his new youth program instantly appealed to my and Robin’s motivation to help others. When we met Greg at the outset, and he made me aware of his effort to bring SquashBusters to Providence, he did not need to convince me to help get the opportunity to less advantaged young students of color. Like Greg, I appreciate that sports improved me – they brought me life-long friendships and happiness.

I immediately knew I wanted to share Greg’s important journey in Providence.

To continue our ability to help others, Mrs. Hall and I established a scholarship for a selected SquashBusters student to have the opportunity to attend Moses Brown. At the staff’s recommendation, Jesus Diaz was selected. He is an amazing young man, as we soon learned.

When we met with Jesus last fall, he was emotional about growing and embracing the academic experience at Moses Brown. He was passionate about what the SquashBusters staff meant to him and appreciated our support.

Stefano Crena, SquashBusters’ Executive Director of Development, recently sent us pictures of Jesus with his friends, squash racquets in hand and smiling! It was thoughtful of Stefano to update us on Jesus – that he loves the culture at Moses Brown, is thriving academically with a 3.6 GPA average, and is playing for the Moses Brown team. Stefano also confirmed that Jesus is a wonderful young man, always at the SquashBusters’ facility doing homework and practicing squash – and has been an integral part of the SquashBusters’ community.

Jesus’ smile and those of his friends were priceless and confirmed our interest in helping others again.

Robin and I are hopeful, and I know Greg and the Providence staff are as well, that we have established precedent and that others will continue helping another SquashBusters youngster improve and enrich his life by attending Moses Brown! We are hopeful that other generous and thoughtful friends of SquashBusters – will continue to give others, like Jesus, a life-changing experience. An annual Moses Brown Scholarship would be a dream for Robin, me, Greg, and his entire staff.