Coach Rick Barnes uses Volunteer Spirit to give back to Emerald Youth Foundation

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. There is no denying that the University of Tennessee is full of Volunteer Spirit. For one new coach who's been greeted with "welcome to the real UT," his spirit of serving others is already part of who he is.

Over at the Second United Methodist Church the after school program is all about enjoying the sunshine and stretching the legs after school.

"We have 29 elementary schoolers here, but we also have a middle school and a high school program," Mikah Cole, an elementary coordinator at Emerald Youth Foundation's after school program.

"It's not just working with the kids, which is a big part of it. We're with them every day, but we also get to be involved in their schools and in their families too," says Cole.

All of the play plus help with homework and faith nourishment can happen because of generosity that comes in part from a man who also has his own "kids" to watch over.

"This town needs facilities. We need more gym space. We need afternoon space for the kids so they can continue to grow," says UT Men's Basketball Head Coach Rick Barnes.

He is passionate about the Emerald Youth Foundation.

"Those were the facilities that kept me out of trouble when I was coming up. People that work those facilities are heroes of mine that are there for you when you need somebody," says Coach Barnes.

Since he got to town, he was told about what Emerald Youth did and liked what he saw. Now he spends what little free time he has working to raise awareness and donations to keep Emerald running. Once a year he helps out at the Emerald Youth Golf Classic.

"You often times in sports, you watch tv, you see 'celebrities.' I would say there are many more celebrities that are doing unbelievable work in the eyes of God that are much bigger than what we do in the world of athletics," says Barnes.

Hoping to inspire these playground athletes Coach Barnes also invites a few of them to UT Men's Basketball games.

"One of the greatest lessons we can teach our kids is that you got to give back. I don't know if there's a greater gift in life than giving," he says.

"It's very important in their lives. They become a big part of it. They love coming here, and we love having them," says Cole.

While the kids and volunteers may not know how much Coach Barnes does behind the scenes, one thing is clear; He has Volunteer Spirit.

For those looking to join Coach Barnes in supporting the Emeral Youth Foundation can find out more by going to here to their website or their Facebook page.