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A place for a boy to show off his talents

A 13-year-old athlete has been on a tough road, but with his good grades, physical abilities and fighting spirit, he has a future.

August 06, 2004|Michael Ordona | Times Staff Writer

After some prodding from his grandmother, Martell describes his best game with the Pasadena Panthers so far.

"It was muddy and raining," he says, embarrassed but smiling. "We were close to the end zone. They threw me the ball, I got stopped and there was about 20 seconds left. Then they did a reverse to me and we won the game."

His grandmother laughs: "I don't want to brag, but everyone was jumping up and down and hollering, 'Martell did it! Martell did it!' "

The wide-eyed 13-year-old is too modest to admit that he's the captain of both his basketball and football teams, was named best running back of his Pop Warner league last year and is evolving into a real leader.

But not everything has come easily to Martell.

He has some hearing loss in both ears as a result of childhood illnesses. His grandmother, Margie, is hopeful that doctors can restore it this summer. He and his five siblings live with Margie and her husband in a two-bedroom house in north Pasadena.

"It's kind of like a ghetto to me," he says. "Loud noise, people racing on our street, stuff like that."

"We've had three people get killed on our street, one this year," Margie says of the reckless driving.

Martell's mother struggled with substance abuse for more than a decade and became homeless. One of Martell's sisters required detox for three weeks just after she was born. Margie took in each of her daughter's six kids after they were born, after having raised 12 of her own.

After three years of rehab, Martell's mother is clean and has become a counselor. She's planning to move in with Margie and the kids to eventually prove herself ready to retake sole custody.

Last year, Martell attended camp at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul's Circle V Ranch in the Los Padres National Forest and loved it.

He particularly remembers going swimming and on a scavenger hunt. When he asked to go again this year, Linda Williams, program director of the Friends in Deed house, told him to give her a good reason to send him.

Williams recalls, "He brought in his report card and said, 'There are no bad grades, my behavior is satisfactory.' " He went again this year courtesy of The Times Summer Camp Campaign.

"He takes care of his siblings, does his chores.... He's the best at all of his sports. He's got a good future if he hangs in there," Margie says.

About 11,000 children will go to camp this summer, thanks to $1.6 million raised last year.

The annual fundraising campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, which this year will match the first $1.1 million in contributions at 50 cents on the dollar.

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