Taylor Kavanaugh's college football career at Oregon St. was a success by all reasonable measures; playing for the Beavers in winning seasons and bowl games. As a local product of Lincoln High in Portland, OR, Kavanaugh achieved his goal of making a difference on the field.
But as the "reliable, hands guy" on kick returns and the holder for the place kicker, Kavanaugh's future wasn't ever going to be in football.
However, his scholarship opened the door to an effective blending of a career and public service. A degree in construction engineering management and the opportunity to participate on an ongoing basis in Oregon State's "Beavers Without Borders" program has put Kavanaugh in position to have a successful career, and put people in homes as well.
Beavers Without Border provides current and graduated athletes international service opportunities with the dual purpose of making immediate contributions while inspiring all of Beaver Nation to follow suit.
Over the 2011 spring break, Kavanaugh, who now works for Turner Construction in Seattle, WA, organized and led a group of 15 athletes to Guatemala to help build a house for a family of nine in need that had been living in a one bedroom, one bathroom house. Although, "You can't really call what they were living in a house," current Oregon St. safety Lance Mitchell said.
"I became involved (with Beavers Without Borders) because I have felt for some time that I owe much of my character and who I am as a person to Oregon State athletics," Kavanaugh explained. That became only more evident after I graduated, and entered into the corporate environment."
Kavanaugh was able to apply both his construction engineering skills and the team skills developed on coach Mike Riley's squads in the effort.
"The football players that went to Guatamala are visibly different for the experience," Riley observed. "They become better leaders, they came back tougher, and have more of that "X" factor."
"Eye opening" was current Beavers' wide receiver Marcus Wheaton's assessment. Mitchell called the trip "Life Changing." And cornerback Rashaad Reynolds described the effort as "The best thing I've done in my life. It's something I'll never forget."
It's not all only about serious stuff, though, as the camaraderie inherent in team sports makes for enjoyable moments, even when hard work or unplanned adversity, like strange foreign foods, arises.
Kavanaugh related current Oregon St. punter Johnny Hekkar's assessment after he got sick the second day.
"Johnny attended salsa lessons, ate some ‘street food' in the spirit of the moment, and after becoming ill, could only advise ‘Don't mess with the food in Guatamala!'", Kavanaugh said.
Kavanaugh led another group to over summer break to Macedonia, and is following the trips up with informational video presentations around the state at Oregon St. facilities and functions, including one on the Boeing campus as a part of the Beavers' mid-October trip to Seattle for the Washington St. game.
The video can also be found on YouTube by searching for user name "beaverswoborders".
Kavanaugh plans to continue the efforts as well.
"We are going to Cambodia in December, Honduras next spring break, and then to Guatamala again in the summer of 2012," Kavanaugh said. "We're lining up student athletes for all of those trips."
The Beaver Without Borders might steer clear of unfamiliar local foods, though.
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