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OHIO VALLEY UNSUNG HEROES: Cash always willing to help

BRIDGEPORT — Don Cash is of the belief that it doesn’t cost much to make a difference.

A 1975 graduate of Bridgeport High School, Cash loves his hometown. So much so that he’s devoted a large portion of his life helping cultivate it, not just for the current generation, but for future ones, too.

“I really like it when people pay it forward,” he said. “People did things for me. It doesn’t cost me anything to donate my time, my effort, my passion, or whatever. That doesn’t cost me anything.

“I don’t have to make a big financial contribution to get my name on a wall or anything. And, it’s OK for people to do that. But, working hard and doing things for groups and stuff like that is a way to give back.”

Cash’s talents have bettered numerous fields and entities the past four decades or so. During that time, his work as a basketball official, coach and school board member have helped shape countless lives and inspired others to follow in his footsteps.

For him, he’s simply doing what others have done for him.

“I’m really passionate about it,” he said. “It’s home. Bridgeport is a place where everybody knows everybody.”

No matter if they’re from Bridgeport, Blaine, Lansing, Barton or Wolfhurst, Cash said everyone is a family and a part of ‘Bulldog Nation.’

Perhaps the focal point of the community is the “new” high school. The K-12 building, located along Route 40, has been open for more than a decade now, but still looks new. For Cash, its construction is one of the highlights of his tenure on the Bridgeport Board of Education, of which he’s been a member for nearly a quarter century.

“That was one of the things that was a lot of hard work by a lot of good people,” he stressed. “It was one of the best things we’ve done.

“It was the right thing at the right time.”

A longtime little league baseball coach who had a stint coaching Bulldog baseball with the late Ted Downing, Cash’s coaching genes continue to flow through the school today. His son, Donnie, has been at the helm for more than a decade.

Watching his son patrol the bench is a source of pride for the elder Cash, but it’s something he doesn’t get to do often as his officiating career, entering its 39th season, usually takes him far away from the Havlicek Gymnasium.

He was there, however, when the Bulldogs won the 2008 Class A crown in the first season of the current OVAC championship format.

“That brought tears to my eyes,” he recalled. “He was all in.

“For many teams, that’s their state championship.”

Cash, himself, has officiated a handful of state tournament games, including three championship contests combined in Ohio and West Virginia. It’s a career that started at the urging of Dan Delande and the late John Howell, who took him to a meeting between unbeatens Buckeye Trail and Shenandoah 42 years ago to introduce him to the vocation.

“I asked them afterwards, ‘Why do you want me to do this?,'” Cash remembered laughing.

Cash said he took the officials’ class from Howell a few years later and soon realized he had what it took to move up the ranks.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said of officiating. “I’ve met so many good people. I have so many friends.”

Now, Cash is the mentor, serving as head of an officials’ training class, something he never envisioned himself doing years ago.

“Teaching the class has made me really, really sharp on the rules,” he said.

Cash, unlike some Ohio Valley arbiters, works just one sport. He finds it important to balance his work, athletic and home life.

“I have a staggered system I use,” he said, noting the system keeps him available for family events and such, while staying connected to hoops.

Plus, it allows him to stay active in his other passions, which include the annual Neikro Golf Scramble, which he started with Brian Schambach in 1998, and the Bridgeport Educational Assistance Foundation. That organization, initiated by alum Al Scheid, aids a plethora of educational endeavors throughout the district.

“It’s been very successful,” Cash said.

As has Cash’s life, which he credits, mostly, to his upbringing in the town he calls home.

“This is a place where people stick together.”

If you know of someone in sports in the Ohio Valley whom I could feature as an Ohio Valley Unsung Hero, drop me a line at rthorp@timesleaderonline.com or via Twitter @RickThorp1

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