North Queensland Cowboys veteran Gavin Cooper's passion is giving young children the tools to successfully navigate life and lately he has been doing double duty.
Cooper generously makes time to visit school children through the Cowboys Adopt a School Program and has taken on not one, but two schools.
“I've been with Wulguru State School since I first came back in 2011 and after Ben Hannant left, I took on Hermit Park state school as well," he said.
"It's good to be involved in both of those schools. Wulguru’s a pretty small school out close to near where I live. And then Hermit Park, it’s a bigger school but to see the way they run their programs is quite interesting.”
Cooper has been recognised as a Ken Stephen Medal nominee for his extensive work with children.
He told NRL.Com healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle are important messages he aims to educate the youngsters on.
“It varies, sometimes it could be as easy as going out on a field and playing some sport, other times it’s talking about healthy eating or about a healthy lifestyle," said the back-rower.
“I was actually talking to some grade threes about a healthy mind and for it to be okay for you not to be okay.
"The sooner you give kids the tools on how to deal with things, I think the better off our next generation of kids will be.”
The life education Cooper gives to the children is enormous, but it’s what he gets out of it that offers him the greatest satisfaction of all.
“To see kids, engage and listen,” said the veteran, a member of the NRL's 300-game club.
“As soon as you walk in with the Cowboys shirt on, it carries a bit of weight around these parts. Even if we're not doing too well on the field, most of the kids are a bit naive to how we perform week in, week out.
“It does mean a lot and it does carry some weight, the messages we try and spread.”
Cooper is also an ambassador for the Daniel Morcombe Foundation and educates young people on safety issues.
“A lot of the messages are about looking out for each other, looking out for your friends, being safe when you play.
“Getting the chance to be involved with the foundation and see the work that Bruce and Denise [Morcombe] do tirelessly is phenomenal.
“To see what they've been through the last 15 years and how they put themselves out there and make all kids in Australia a lot safer, I tip my hat to them.
“The times I've had a chance to sit down and have a chat with them about things, it's mind-blowing how much they do,” Cooper said.
The 2019 Ken Stephen Medal is proudly supported by wealth, property and well-being consultancy, One Solutions.