I like to give back as much as I possible can.Clark Heller
RINCON — Clark Heller’s service game helped him become the top player on the Effingham County High School tennis team. It also helped hundreds of children after schools closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting March 18, the Effingham County School District delivered meals five days a week to designated locations for distribution to children 18 and younger. The meals included lunch for the current day and breakfast for the following one.
“My dad (Henry Heller) asked me one day if I could wake up early with him and help the lunchroom ladies load up coolers to help the kids that needed the meals during this time,” Clark said.
Clark answered affirmatively without hesitation.
“I think I started the second day they started,” he said.
Shortly thereafter, Clark began handing meals directly to children. He helped serve more than 300 per day.
“I like to give back as much as I possibly can,” he said.
Clark, who spent much of his Effingham County tennis career as the Rebels’ No. 1 singles player, thinks each of his parents deserves credit for his philanthropic spirit. His mother is Sabrina Heller, media specialist at Ebenezer Elementary School.
“That’s how they raised me growing up,” Clark said.
His eagerness to help others hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“He’s a great tennis player for us but he is an even better kid in the hallways, ” Effingham County athletic director Matt Huntley said in January when Clark signed a national letter of intent to attend Piedmont College. “He’s a pleasure to have around.”
Former Rebels tennis coach Deana Spacek also focused on Clark’s character during that occasion.
“My favorite memory of Clark is when he refused to allow another player to ride the bus home alone,” she said. “All the other players had wound up having a ride home with their parents. It was during the long weekend we had at the Valdosta tournament.
"He didn’t even hesitate. He declined the ride home with his parents, declined to see his own brother play in the baseball playoffs and rode home with that player on the bus just so that player would have someone on the team there to support her because that’s the kind of player he is. That’s the kind of person he is.”
Clark’s food duties ended May 22 when the 2019-20 school year ended. His memories of them linger, however.
“The thing that hit me the most is when I passed out the meals,” he said. “That’s when Dad warned me that I would see kids (9 and over) roll up without parents. About the third group that came up was three little kids — one was probably in the first grade — who came up on their bikes.
“Kids would ride up on bikes and golf carts to get food. It was very eye opening to me how lucky some of us are.”
Until he takes off for Piedmont College in a couple months, Clark is working with the Effingham County Board of Education’s Maintenance Department. He said he’s quite handy with a hammer and screwdriver.
“I work forty hours a week and try to practice tennis as much as possible,” he said. “I also hang out with my friends and family.”