HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Beloved track and cross country coach Craig "Mug" Hedley has been a fixture on the sidelines at Hermitage High for 13 years. There he encourages students to stretch and strive to be their best.
"The beauty of track is that it is so measurable. What did you run the mile today? Can you run it faster tomorrow?" Hedley said.
As a coach, Hedley helps teenagers get a leg up on life, but his biggest impact on children may come far away from the track. At the tranquil setting of St. Joseph’s Villa on Brook Road in Henrico County. As director of community partnerships, Hedley works on the front lines aiding families in crisis and children facing neglect or abuse.
"It is an incredible place to work. To help families in need," Hedley said. "My day is different every day. Imagine a child coming home and no one is home at night. What that is like."
Craig has shouldered this monumental responsibility for 30 years.
"It has been very rewarding. My former boss said you need a sense of ministry to work here. I don’t know about me being a minister, but it does go beyond the dollar and it does go beyond how we can help people," Hedley said.
His jovial nature has made big fans out of staff and students alike at St. Joseph’s. David Battiston, 16, said Hedley's dedication at the Villa is second to none.
"It makes people feel they have a friend here," Battiston said. "He is someone I’d like to keep in my life. He is a very nice guy."
Drew Melson witnessed Hedley's commitment to children years ago. First, as one of his athletes on Hermitige’s track team and now as a colleague at St. Joseph’s.
"At any time of day Craig is on call," Melson said. "Craig has a talent for making anyone feel comfortable in any situation."
At the track, Coach Mug is reaching the finish line. He will retire from coaching at Hermitage at the end of the season and when he leaves, he will leave big running shoes to fill.
"It is more than just 24 hours a day that he is putting in, not only to the Villa, but the high school. Again it says a lot about the type of person Mug is," Hermitage’s Athletic Director Chris Rollison said.
He may be walking away from running, but Hedley will remain at St. Joseph’s helping push children to reach their full potential on the race track of life.
"I feel like I do have a calling to serve people and the Villa is a wonderful place to do that," Hedley said.
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