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Prep Review : Villa Park’s Barker Sets His Goals Higher Than Most: Fighting Hunger

There are goals and there are goals.

Chad Barker, water polo player and parents’ dream, has scored a lot of them and set a lot of them. This season, as a senior at Villa Park High School, he has put the two together.

For every goal or assist Barker gets playing water polo, he has pledged to donate a dollar to the Strike Out Hunger Foundation. The organization is headed by Angel pitcher Kirk McCaskill, who donated $20 for every strikeout. That gave Barker the idea.

But it was the late singer Harry Chapin, who devoted himself to the world hunger problem, who helped teach a kid from the right side of the tracks--Villa Park is one of Orange County’s most affluent communities--how the other half lives.

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In 1978, Barker’s parents took him to see Chapin in concert. After it was over, they took him backstage and stood in line for Chapin’s autograph.

“For some reason when I got up there, he told me I looked like his mailman,” Barker said. “I was really impressed with him and I sent him a letter and a drawing about his song ‘Flowers are Red.’ ”

Chad’s parents, Lee and Toni Marteney, went out of their way to keep the 7-year-old’s expectations down.

“One of our older boys (Ross) spent years writing to baseball players trying to get autographs,” said Toni, Chad’s mother. “So we were pretty cynical about celebrities replying to mail. We kept telling him not to be disappointed if nothing came. So when a letter came just about a week later, we were astonished.”

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And there started a relationship that would grow through letters and conversations until Chapin’s death at the age of 38 in 1981. In a way, it has continued even after.

“Meeting Harry was the turning point of my life,” Barker said. “He changed the way I looked at life. Kids always hear about people starving in Africa, but he taught me there were people starving next door and that you could do something about it.”

In fact, the song which first drew Chapin and Barker together, “Flowers are Red,” has become the theme of Barker’s actions.

The song is about a boy who draws flowers using all different colors, but is told by his teacher that flowers should only be red and green. When the boy goes to a new school and draws flowers using only red and green, he’s told by another teacher that flowers should be all colors.

“That’s the perspective I’m trying to live my life from,” Barker said. “Seeing all the colors, even the bad, and trying to do something about it.”

The last time Barker saw Chapin perform in Southern California, the singer dedicated the song to him.

“He always called me his West Coast kid,” he said. “He said, ‘This is for my West Coast kid.’ ”

So far, Barker has contributed $120 to the hunger organization. Worried that people may think he was doing it for publicity, Barker told only his closest friends about his plans. Jeff Ehrlich, Villa Park coach, didn’t find out about it until midseason.

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“He was very modest and humble about the whole thing,” Ehrlich said. “Someone like him comes along only once in a great while. He’s a great example for the rest of the kids.”

He’s one of Orange County’s best 2-meter men and the Villa Park team captain. He’s president of the senior class and the Latin Club. He’s on the boards of the Villa Park Key Club and Students Against Drunk Driving, and maintains an A-average.

Example? Yes, you might say that.

With victories of varying ease Friday, the Mission Viejo and Los Alamitos football teams have established themselves as favorites to meet in the Division III championship game in December. Sure, it’s a ways off, but neither team has lost this season.

Mission Viejo is 8-0 and ranked No. 1 in Orange County. Los Alamitos is 7-0-1 and ranked seventh. The Griffins tied Kennedy, 28-28, in their season opener.

Both are alone atop their leagues. Mission Viejo, 3-0 in the South Coast League, has allowed only El Toro to score more than 13 points this season. El Toro scored 14.

Los Alamitos, 3-0 in the Empire League, has 4 shutouts, and has allowed only 2 teams to score in double figures.

These teams met in the Division III (it was called the Southern Conference) semifinals last season. Los Alamitos won in the California tiebreaker when Erik Ekdahl missed an extra point kick after scoring a touchdown. Ekdahl, a back/kicker, leads the county with 120 points this season.

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Speaking about that game and the prospect of another meeting, Ekdahl said: “I’d like that very much. I really would.”

The chances are good he’ll get his wish.

Prep Notes

Eddie Lavelle of Corona del Mar ran the 3-mile Back Bay cross-country course in 15 minutes 14 seconds to set a course record Friday. It was the last time Lavelle would run the course, Corona del Mar’s home course. . . . Tracy Fatone broke the Los Alamitos school record, Thursday, running 18:53. She broke Brooke Mabe’s record of 19:10, who set the record 3 weeks before.


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