Headwaters Relief Organization is proud to support Joel LeVahn, a regular Headwaters volunteer, in his personal volunteer efforts to make a difference in the lives of young men through basketball.  Headwaters wishes Coach Joel and The Next Level all the best!

Coach Joel LeVahn has coached his sons’ Spring Lake Park travelling basketball team for many years.  Through the years the team’s experienced its share of victories and defeats, encouraged every time by their coach to do their best and always to strive to do better.

At one particular basketball tournament, Coach Joel’s Spring Lake Park team faced a team from East Saint Paul.  They played their game and the East Saint Paul team, called “Regime Gym Rats,” trounced Spring Lake Park!

In the spirit of good sportsmanship, Coach Joel made it a point to meet the Regime team’s Coach Carlos.  Coach Joel became quickly intrigued with Coach Carlos and his mission.

Coach Carlos shared how the young men on his team came from the Dayton’s Bluff area of East Saint Paul, a particularly “tough” neighborhood where criminal lifestyles were all too present and, oftentimes, all too tempting.  These were young men who were “walking the line” and could be turned one way or the other, depending on the influences in their lives.  Coach Carlos’ mission was to do all that he could, through the positive influence of travelling basketball, to help the young men with whom he worked to make good choices.

In order to accomplish his goal, Coach Carlos was doing everything he could to make it happen.  When his team members couldn’t afford the fast food that the tournaments’ other teams’ were all eating, Coach Carlos packed a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches.  Instead of expecting the young men’s parents to provide them with transportation, Coach Carlos purchased and used one large, old van.

Coach Joel was both impressed and moved by this man and his selfless mission to make a difference in the lives of his young team members.  For some time he reflected, wondering what he could do to support Coach Carlos in his mission.

Then Coach Joel considered a long standing Christmas tradition in his family of giving a gift to someone in need.  Could that “someone in need” be the Coach Carlos and his Regime team?  More than this, could this family tradition become a tradition with his own Spring Lake Park team?

Coach Joel decided to ask Coach Carlos if there was anything in particular that the Regime team needed, anything that would help Coach Carlos in his mission.  Coach Carlos said that there was and that the thing that would mean the most to the team members would be for them to have hoodies branded with their team logo.

Coach Joel took this request to his Spring Lake Park team members, inviting them to contribute to the goal.  They did so willingly, with Coach Joel contributing the remainder necessary to purchase the hoodies.  The team members wrapped the gifts and brought them to the Regime team members as Christmas gifts … some of whom wouldn’t receive any Christmas gifts other than the hoodie from Coach Joel’s Spring Lake Park team.

Since then the two teams have gotten together many times, sharing activities both on and off the basketball court.  They have moved beyond a casual acquaintance to become an organization, first known as Two Communities Unite and now calling themselves, The Next Level.  Their objective is to work together, not only to hone their basketball skills, but to develop life skills as well, always working towards the goal of becoming good citizens and learning from each other.

Together, the two teams have the opportunity to learn from and about each other, sharing friendship and fun with others who are different and yet, surprisingly similar.  They are in the process of taking both their basketball skills and their lives to the next level.