Fort Dodge athletes reach out in Cady's honor
Mark Cady’s relationship with the Fort Dodge football program was personal for as long as Nik Moser can remember.
“It’s been my honor to tell our players his story,” the first-year Dodger football head coach said. “He taught Sunday School at church with my dad (former FDSH leader Sam Moser). He was on the interview committee when Matt (Miller) was hired to replace him. I went to school with (Cady’s daughter) Kelsi, all the way back to our elementary days. I spent a lot of time at their house through high school. And of course, (Cady’s son) Spencer had a terrific career here before playing for Drake.
“So when I tell the kids Mark Cady had a vested interest in Dodger football, you really start to feel it as the memories come flooding back. It’s important they know, so that when they’re doing something to carry on his legacy, they realize they’re honoring both the fan and the man.”
Cady passed away suddenly last November at the age of 66. The Fort Dodge resident served on Iowa’s Supreme Court for 21 years, and as its Chief Justice from 2011 until his death.
When Cady was at Dodger Stadium on Friday nights, though, he was just a dad and an avid supporter of local athletes.
“He was always a part of our program without officially being a ‘part of our program,'” Moser said. “To me, Mark stood for what a supportive parent and community member should be. He was positive and encouraging with the kids and the coaches both. The man we saw in public — mild-mannered, intelligent, patient — was the man we all knew here in Fort Dodge, too.”
Moser’s wife, Katie, spearheaded an idea to get the 2020 FDSH players involved in the inaugural “Mark Cady Day of Public Service.” First Presbyterian Church in Fort Dodge has become the local headquarters for the event, which asks for community volunteer work to honor Cady’s memory on Friday.
“Katie got the ball rolling,” Moser said. “We wanted to do something to honor Mark in our own way and get our guys involved. We came up with the idea of giving back to the teachers who helped mold our young men into the leaders they are today.”
Over 50 student-athletes participated in the “Every Child Deserves a Champion” service project, choosing a Fort Dodge Community School District staff member “who has been a champion for them throughout their school years” and surprising them with a specialized gift bag sponsored by the Fort Dodge Gridiron Club on Thursday — the last day teachers are at school this week.
“Our kids see the kind of stress adults have been taking on since the pandemic hit (last March),” Moser said. “They can feel it. Our teachers are serving in so many roles right now that go way beyond the call of duty, and they’re doing the best job they can. But it’s emotionally draining.
“We told them to think of a teacher who had a significant impact on their life, whether it was a year or two ago in high school or all the way back when they were young. They had to put some thought into what they were doing and personalize it, letting them know how much of a difference these teachers or coaches have made in their lives. We appreciate the Fort Dodge Gridiron Club’s help in making that vision a reality.”
Dodger senior co-captain Sawyer Springer tabbed Ben Schnurr and Nick Vinson.
“Coach Schnurr is someone I’ve known and looked up to my entire life,” Springer said. “He’s always checking in on me and trying to help me in any situation, and he’s always offering his time for the betterment of those around him.
“Coach Vinson has been there for me not just in baseball but in life. I feel comfortable asking him things that aren’t always easy to be open about, and he always gives me respect back, so that’s something I definitely admire. It’s about more than just sports to him.”
FDSH senior Sam Daniel, also a co-captain, chose Jerry Ellendson.
“He’s helped me so much to become the defensive back that I am today,” said Daniel, who leads the entire state in interceptions. “Giving back to the Fort Dodge community means so much to me, because they support the football program in so many ways.”
“Giving back to the community is important, because I saw my dad (the late Steve Springer) and I see my mom (Juli) do it whenever they get the chance,” Springer said. “They do so much for us, so why not return the favor?”
Senior co-captain Dayson Clayton, a four-year standout tailback, picked Nicole Ahrens.
“She’s been keeping me on track ever since middle school,” Clayton said. “She’s always been someone I can talk to about anything, no matter what it is. Without her, I wouldn’t be the person I am. I really appreciate having her in my life.
“Giving back like this is just something I feel I need to do because the community gives so much to us.”
To volunteer for the “Mark Cady Day of Public Service” on Friday in Fort Dodge, visit First Presbyterian Church’s Facebook page or call (515) 576-2091. Others are asked to visit https://www.drake.edu/law/alumni/events/markscadydayofpublicservice/ through Drake University.