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Ohio University Lancaster student recognized as American Red Cross Youth Hero

For Ohio University Lancaster campus student Cody Sarensen, helping out others in the community has always been a part of his life.

While he attended Lancaster High School, he volunteered in disabled classrooms, he started the inclusive No Limits Basketball Camp for children with and without handicaps and he works as a caregiver to a young man with disabilities.

Now he's being recognized for his work.

Sarensen is the recipient of the 2012 Red Cross Youth Hero Award, an award given out by the American Red Cross Fairfield County to recognize hometown heroes. Some are nominated for an act of bravery and others for their daily activities.

For Sarensen, it was simply his nature that inspired him to create No Limits Basketball Camp, which resulted in his recognition.

"A lot of it has been in my past and I've always been taught to help one another out and do what I can to be a friend," he explained.

The camp started last year when Sarensen combined his love of basketball with his passion for volunteering. Although the main focus was to teach people ages nine to 21 the fundamentals of basketball, the Ohio University Lancaster student quickly noticed the bigger lesson.

"It was awesome seeing those without disabilities being there and being involved and helping those with disabilities, and even those people with the disabilities teaching those without disabilities something," Sarensen explained. "It really showed through everyone, especially the parents that were staying and all of my camp volunteers, the staff and coaches that helped out. It really opened up everyone's eyes that, hey, we're all the same no matter what disability we have or don't have."

The No Limits Basketball Camp is still an infant at only a year old, but already surpassed its founder's expectations.

"My biggest concern was how many campers were going to show up at the camp," he said. "We had 60 registered and I was only expecting 20. That kind of shocked me a little bit. We have close to 100 for next year's camp so we'll have to be even more ready for that."

John Bosser, community outreach coordinator for the Fairfield County Board of Developmental Disabilities, served as Sarensen's right-hand through the process of establishing the camp, and attested to Sarensen's caring personality.

"He truly cares about people," Bosser explained. "He wants to help people, and this is a group of people, these younger kids with disabilities, that will always have this kind of opportunity."

He also recognized the impact that the camp is making on the participants, recalling a disabled male camper who grew up surrounded by his sisters' success in the sport.

"This was an opportunity for him to be like them, because he had always looked up to his sisters," Bosser said. "He has a disability, so there's always that stigma of people telling him things that he couldn't do and this was an opportunity to do something that he really, really loved and that he could really relate to the success that his sisters had."

And for Sarensen, it's obvious to everyone except himself as to why he embodies the Red Cross Youth Hero. Although he cites being a friendly person who cares about his peers, past the No Limits Basketball Camp and he's still surprised he received the award.

Fortunately for Lancaster, Ohio, Sarensen plans on continuing to dedicate himself to the community. He hopes to expand the No Limits Basketball Camp to different counties throughout Ohio, starting one wherever needed and to work for the Fairfield County Board of Developmental Disabilities. However, right now his focus remains on this year's camp.

Sarensen formally receives his award at the American Red Cross Fairfield County's Heroes Breakfast Feb. 14 along with seven other heroes.