Kendall Hammerstrom working to get Holy Cross back on track

09/15/2016 05:27 PM

Principal Danielle Wiegandt knew Kendall Hammerstrom long before he became a teacher at Holy Cross High School, she knew him as a student at Holy Cross, just 4 years ago.

“We’re going to be okay. We’re going to be okay if you don’t want to do this, you know? And I told him I don’t want to suck you into this thing because it will never let you go,” she said with a laugh.

For Hammerstrom, he was sucked in to Holy Cross from the time he enrolled as a freshman in high school.

“Since I graduated in 2012 I’ve coached basketball, track, done a lot of strength and conditioning work. So really, I haven’t ever left. And that was very important to me- that I stayed with my community and with my home,” he explained.

Hammerstrom was part of a state championship track and field team in 2011 at Holy Cross, but not all of his memories during that time are pleasant ones.

“My sophomore year my mother became sick with cancer and it was rough. But I definitely had a lot of support here and I didn’t really have to seek it out, it just came to me. The friends that I had, the teachers that I had- and then she passed away before the start of my junior year,” Hammerstrom explained. “She was my best friend.”

His mother didn’t just leave a lasting impact on him, but children nationwide.

“Blessings in a Backpack is something that my mom started. We started stuffing backpacks when I was in the 5th grade in our garage and she would take them to schools and it just kind of blossomed from there.”

Hammerstrom, 22, is in his first year teaching health and PE as well as implementing a strength and conditioning department for HCHS student athletes. He graduated from UofL in the spring, completing his first season as the girl’s track and field coach.

“He’s been somebody who’s seen what a gift his mom was to not only his life but so many other lives and I think he really wants to give back the way that his mom did and finding his own way to do that, you know , she did it with Blessings in a Backpack- he’s finding a way to do that here at Holy Cross,” Wiegandt said.

Hammerstrom knows both as a student-athlete and coach that the track is in poor condition.

“I have decided in my mom’s honor to donate $25,000 to the school. When the opportunity arose it was a no-brainer to me. It was probably the smartest decision I made and weighing the pros and cons there’s no cons for me,” Hammerstrom explained. “It’s simply going to help out my community and help my home. That’s kind of what the money was designed to do for for me to kind of go out and purchase my own home but I realize that this is my home and this needs more attention right now.”

The state champion track athlete-turned-track coach is donating the money to improve the track the Cougars run and train on in hopes of upgrading it to a rubber surface. At minimum, they need $60,000, but he hopes with the backing of HCHS alumni, they can raise $150,000.

“We have a lot of cracks, a lot of worn-down spots where theres really not much left it’s just kind of ground,” Hammerstrom said. He hopes that by next season, they can be running on a track dedicated to his mother and her legacy.

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