Our educators and our coaches are capable of making the world a better place. There’s no doubt many of you would agree with the assertion that high school athletics play a role in building character that will stick with young people the rest of their lives.

Learning about and telling the stories of people being impacted — or those providing the positive influence — is a big reason why being a sportswriter is enjoyable, but we also know that teachers and coaches have only so much time with young people. It’s up to parents to reinforce and encourage, but we all know there’s not always a positive role model at home.

Perhaps more than ever, we need people in the community making an impact on youth.

At Tuesday’s News and Tribune Sports Performance Yearly (NTSPY) Awards, we are excited to welcome and provide some support for Dan Marsden, who started Redeem the Dream six years ago in New Albany with that mission.

Marsden will share some of his story at Eastside Christian Church as we honor our top athletes in every high school sport. Having had the chance to visit Redeem the Dream earlier this spring, just briefly, it’s clear that what Marsden does is impactful.

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Dan Marsden , Founder of Redeem the Dream, leads youth members before a prayer while gathering for youth night at Midtown Ministries on Wednesday. 

He inspires through his own story and through his Christian beliefs, but he also brings in some notable guests to inspire kids from Jeffersonville, Clarksville, New Albany and Louisville’s west end who are in particular need of being inspired.

“It’s a passion with the kids. I just feel like they all know me now. You feel empowered to be in the atmosphere to be a light for these kids, it’s my duty and an honor to share my direction in life,” Marsden said.

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Ruthie Bolton, a former WNBA star, visits several times a year. Miss Kentucky, Romeo Langford and former Louisville FC player Kyle Smith are among those who have visited Redeem the Dream.

“I know it’s a win/win,” said Bolton, who works with kids in her hometown of Sacramento. “It’s not something you always see right away. You stay persistent and keep investing. It’s going to be the foundation you need. I’m thankful to Dan and what he’s doing.”

Marsden is looking to expand into the former Boys and Girls Club facility in New Albany. His eyes light up when telling the stories of kids he’s had the chance to see grow into better students in school and become positive leaders for younger children.

“I noticed kids falling through the cracks just like I did. I needed to help kids redeem their dream,” Marsden said. “I developed a strong passion and just a fascination for what it takes for teenagers to bridge the gap and break these negative life cycles.”

Marsden is just one of several new additions to our NTSPY Awards night.

We have several new awards. One is the “Top Clutch Performance” award. This award will annually give our committee the chance to revisit and discuss some of the most memorable moments from the beginning of fall sports all the way to softball, baseball and boys’ golf postseason action.

Some of those discussed as candidates in the spring were the two-homer game by Floyd Central’s Taryn Weddle in the sectional, New Albany senior Steven Thom’s game-walk-off double against Silver Creek and Devyn Rivers’ go-ahead homer for Jeffersonville against Floyd Central in the Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament. In basketball, Darin Starks’ game-winning 3-pointer in the regular season gave the Red Devils a dramatic victory over the Highlanders and ultimately led to the two sharing the HHC title. New Albany’s Derrick Stevenson came through with a last-second 3-pointer of his own against Floyd in the sectional semifinals while Lindsey Dorsch’s buzzer-beating triple capped a Highlanders’ comeback win at New Albany.

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New Albany's Derrick Stevenson pulls up for a game-winning 3-pointer over Floyd Central in the fourth quarter of Friday's 4A Seymour Sectional. 

In the fall, Floyd Central’s Drew Cromwell scored a game-winning goal in a 1-0 boys’ soccer victory over Jeff in the sectional championship after Red Devils senior Brennan Zastawny did the same in the semifinals.

We also looked back and will select a “Game of the Year” and a winner for the “Above and Beyond Award,” which will annually go to someone who provides great effort behind the scenes.

We also asked for participation in choosing our three finalists for Cheer Team of the Year. After more than 3,000 votes, those finalists are Floyd Central, Jeffersonville and Silver Creek.

The hard work of our cheerleading teams shouldn’t be taken for granted. More goes into it than just showing up and cheering at games and we assembled a committee of cheer experts to decide this award. Floyd Central’s varsity cheer team took fourth in the State Cheer Championship as well as honors at the Universal Cheerleaders Association. Jeffersonville placed third in the state in November and the coed team earned Grand Champion honors at the Kentucky Crown event in Louisville. Silver Creek, meanwhile, won back-to-back state championships as well as the 2018 timeout state championship and placed fifth at UCA Nationals at Disney World in small varsity Division II.

Tickets are free to Tuesday’s NTSPYs. Visit our event website to get your tickets here: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4109774. Come celebrate a phenomenal year for high school athletics in Southern Indiana.

Craig Pearson is the sports editor of the News and Tribune. Contact him via email at craig.pearson@newsandtribune.com; by phone at 812-206-2116 or on Twitter @CraigPearsonNT.