FtA Oct 27 Issue

The front page of The Tiger's Oct. 27, 2006 issue. The featured article is shown to the left, "Player appears on Oprah."

When brother-turned-parent Ramon "Ray Ray" McElrathbey first petitioned for custody of his younger brother Fahmarr, he attracted local, state and even regional attention.

Then "Good Morning America" named McElrathbey its person of the week on Sept. 15, and his story reached national heights.

On Friday, Oct. 20, the McElrathbey brothers appeared on "Oprah" via satellite.

The show's theme was "Childhood Interrupted," and it included interviews with five children in charge, like McElrathbey.

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, 1.4 million children are becoming heads of their families because of sick or deceased parents.

After his freshman year of college, McElrathbey returned to his Atlanta home to deal with family troubles.

While visiting, he found his mother, who was struggling with a Crack addiction and living in a run-down motel with three of his siblings.

He petitioned the court to grant him temporary custody of Fahmarr and this past September, McElrathbey returned to campus with his 11-year-old brother.

Brothers take help from the community

McElrathbey said that at first he had to wash cars, mow lawns and use his scholarship money to support Fahmarr and himself.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has a rule that prohibits athletes from receiving "gifts, cash or other benefits not provided to the general student population," so donations from friends and donors in the area were prohibited.

In September, Clemson University officials petitioned the NCAA on Ray Ray's behalf and the organization waived the rule for this case.

The university set up the Fahmarr McElrathbey Trust Fund in a local bank to pay for Fahmarr's expenses, so Ray Ray can focus on school. The brothers' daily routine begins with Ray Ray waking at 6:30 a.m. to get Fahmarr to school.

After school, the younger sibling does homework while Ray Ray practices with the football team until late afternoon."

Each day brings a new responsibility for Ray Ray and a new image of a father for Fahmarr.

"Now I really, really get the feeling of how it feels to have a dad that really cares and a dad that will always be around," Fahmarr said.

Several clips on television have shown the Clemson football team adopting Fahmarr as "kind of a little brother," according to sophomore Sean Baker, who watched the broadcast.

Fahmarr acts as a good luck charm for the team. He encourages the team and the team encourages him in return.

It seems that Fahmarr is getting encouragement similar to that received by Ray Ray when he was a child.

Ray Ray also struggled with his mother's drug addiction, which he recalls from as early as when he was 6 years old, until he and his siblings were split and put into foster care.

Things were rough for a while.

His life took an unexpected turn a few years later when two Little League coaches took him into their homes.

McElrathbey and Fahmarr

LIKE FATHER LIKE SONRay Ray McElrathbey, right, and his brother, Fahmarr, left, during the game.

Ray Ray proceeded to excel in sports and earned a full athletic scholarship to Clemson University.

Sadly, not everybody receives the support that Ray Ray has received.

One 13-year-old girl on the show said that friends had stopped talking to her because she never had time to go out.

An 8-year-old boy had to care for his mother, who is deaf and suffers from Multiple Sclerosis.

But, no matter the situation, the heavy and unique responsibilities of raising siblings is generally outweighed by the fear of having a family split apart, said Lisa Ling, an Oprah show correspondent.

Balancing work, athletics and a social life while raising a child is not the typical college student's life, but if "it takes a village to raise a child."

Students and faculty have shown they want to help.

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