Full circle: Carroll goes from All-Star Classic poster child to helping children as a therapist
MANSFIELD — For as long as he could remember, all David Carroll ever wanted to do was give back.
Give back to a community that made him feel loved and accepted. Give back to his parents who adopted him from Korea at eight months old. Give back to the organizations that helped him overcome developmental disabilities. Give back to the people and places that made him feel like he was part of something and always belonged.
It is safe to say, Carroll is living his dream.
"I was adopted from Korea when I was eight months old so I really feel like this community adopted me and it means everything to me to be able to give back to it," Carroll said. "There are so many great things about this community and so many people and organizations that helped me as a kid. So I just want to do whatever I can to give back. We have great kids in this community and they just need some help sometimes."
Carroll is a mental health therapist at Catalyst Life Services in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Crisis Services department. It is a job he cherishes and loves. He works as a Madison School District liaison going to schools located in the district and meeting with kids who simply need someone to talk to.
"I am a mental health therapist," Carroll said. "I am the Madison School District liaison so I go to a Madison school every day and meet with kids there. I meet with kids from kindergarten through seniors from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then come back here and meet with kids from about 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. And I am also on our crisis team so any time we may have a kid in crisis, I will go all over the county to help."
It is quite literally a job he was destined to do.
When Carroll was growing up in Mansfield, he too needed help as a child. He needed speech therapy as well as audiology and mental health therapy due to several different factors. That was when he found a home at Catalyst Life Services.
It was also there where, in 1999, he was chosen as a poster child for the 21st News Journal All-Star Classic. He was picked to attend the game, sit in the front row, and receive small gifts from the players and coaches. Mostly, they were T-shirts or little plastic basketballs with North Central Ohio school logos on them.
It was a moment he will never forget.
"It was pretty cool to be chosen," Carroll said. " I used to come to Catalyst Life Services from the age of 4 to about 12 for speech therapy, audiology and mental health therapy. My audiologist is still here so that is really neat. I don't know who, but someone nominated me back in the day probably because I was always here. But I will never forget the game. That was the year Marquis Sykes and Tim Mergel played so it was an excellent year. Watching those two teams go at it the entire game was so much fun and I had a front-row seat."
Carrol sat back and enjoyed the show as Sykes scored 23 points and set the All-Star Classic record with nine steals as the North beat the South 110-102 and Sykes earned MVP honors.
But what he will always take with him was the way being a poster child made him feel.
"Back then, I was really shy so it is crazy to think about how all those players came up to me during their pregame intros and gave me stuff," Carroll said. "It made me feel really special at the moment and it is an experience I will never forget. I still have some of the things they gave me. It was so much fun to have my parents with me, too."
Some would say that was where the fire was lit in Carroll to want to give back. That feeling of being special was the highlight of his young life at the time and he wanted to make sure others felt special in their own ways.
After graduating from Mansfield Senior in 2008, Carroll was stuck wondering what to do next. He did the college thing and tried to figure things out in the two years after high school, but nothing really stuck. It wasn't until recently that he figured out his calling.
"I went back to school six years ago to become a therapist," Carroll said. "I was working in residential for a while before I went back to school. Then, the opportunity came up to come here and work and I absolutely loved the idea of coming back to the place where I literally grew up. It was so neat to come back here and work with some of the people who worked here when I was a kid. It just felt like home."
So, Carroll took a job at Catalyst Life Services as a mental health therapist and has been helping kids in the community he cherishes so much. He has been living his dream ever since.
But it wasn't until this year that he really found his full circle moment. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the poster child program for the News Journal All-Star Classic had been put on hold. There were previous instances where the moment was too much for the kids so, it was decided to pause the program.
In 2023, for the 44th News Journal All-Star Classic, the program was revived and the therapists at Catalyst Life Services held a meeting to talk about potential poster children for the game.
"I got really excited when they brought up in the meeting that they were bringing the poster children back," Carroll said. "I just thought, 'Oh my God, I love that!' and everyone looked at me kind of weird wondering why I would get so excited about it and that is when I told them I was a poster kid back in 1999. So I know how special it will be for these kids."
So, Carroll and the rest of the therapists at Catalyst went to work figuring out a pair of children who would be perfect for the honor.
"All of the kids that come here are just really, really great kids," Carroll said. "When we sat down as a group to figure out some kids who would be good for this and this would be good for them, we wanted to pick someone who would really enjoy it and it would make a difference."
Once they were chosen, Carroll was one of the first ones to talk with them. He was kind of an expert, after all.
"I did talk to one of the kids and gave them a heads up on what to expect and I could just see the excitement on their face," Carroll said. "They told everyone at school the next day and they are in for a good time."
A great time for sure, but who knows, maybe this experience will do something similar for the poster children that it did for Carroll.
Maybe they will make it their life mission to give back.
If you go
What: 44th News Journal All-Star Classic
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 24
Where: Lexington High School
How to get tickets: Tickets are currently on sale at Catalyst Life Services locates at 270 Sterkel Boulevard in Mansfield. Cash, card and check will be accepted Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. and Friday 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Tickets will remain on sale there until the day of the game.
You can also purchase tickets during the all-star practices on March 21 and 22 from 4:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. and March 23 from 4:30 p.m.-6 p.m. Practices are open to the public and will be held at Lexington High School. This will be a cash or check-only option.
And finally, you can purchase your tickets at the door the night of the game. Tickets are $8 apiece.
Why: 100% of the proceeds from the 44th News Journal All-Star Classic will be donated to Catalyst Life Services and will benefit the Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Crisis Services department. Over the last 44 years, the News Journal had donated nearly one million dollars.
For any questions, please contact Mansfield News Journal Sports Reporter Jake Furr via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via text at 740-244-9934.
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Catalyst Life Services' Carroll gives back as mental health therapist