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Hanover soccer players team up to help others

  • From left, Hanover High boys soccer juniors Pierce Hamlin, Mitch Aspinwall, Henry Aspinwall and Nathan Subrahmanian stack wood for Hanover resident Whit Mitchell on Saturday, May 16, 2020. The foursome was rewarded for their labors with a $1,000 donation to the Listen Center.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/20/2020 9:35:02 PM
Modified: 5/20/2020 9:34:53 PM

HANOVER — It began with one man’s cranky back.

Hanover resident Whit Mitchell has been good about stacking his own firewood for years, but a recent bout of back pain — boosted by his physical therapist wife’s recommendation for him to take it easy — led him to seek help last week. If someone would stack it for him, he’d be willing to donate $125 to a worthy cause.

Coach Rob Grabill and four members of his Hanover High boys soccer team answered the call.

The quartet — juniors Nathan Subrahmanian, Henry Aspinwall, Mitch Aspinwall and Pierce Hamlin — so impressed Mitchell with their work ethic and spirit, he ended up boosting his donation eightfold, writing a $1,000 check for the Listen Center.

“They were just good kids,” the 66-year-old Mitchell said in a Monday phone conversation. “I know that he’s instilling in them leadership qualities. What you learn in sports stays with you. They’re great lessons for business 25 years after being out on a soccer field or tennis court or football field or on the river. Sport is a wonderful educator, and Coach Grabill is such a wonderful teacher. They won’t forget this.”

Like all Upper Valley high school athletes, Subrahmanian has been sidelined this spring by the coronavirus pandemic. He would have been playing Lightning soccer but, for a day at least, he was glad to do something for the benefit of others.

“I think everybody, to some extent, is looking for things to do given the fact that it’s a dreary scenario right now,” Subrahmanian said. “I think it would be fair, given the situation that we’re all in, to say that to help people in such a situation is nice.”

Grabill and his four woodsmen arrived at Mitchell’s home around noon on Saturday, greeted by a hefty pile of logs dropped off from a local orchard. True to his coaching nature, Grabill lined the quartet up in positions best suited to stacking the load as quickly as they were able.

Mitchell, a former Dartmouth College crew coach who helped establish the school’s Fitness and Lifestyle Improvement Program, or FLIP, in the late 1980s, has known Grabill through soccer for at least three decades. Their friendship dates back to Bobby Clark’s reign as Big Green men’s soccer coach and his son Tommy Clark’s tenure as a Dartmouth midfielder.

“Coach was in charge, telling Bobby Clark stories, but they didn’t know him,” Mitchell said. “So we told Tommy Clark stories, and they didn’t know him. We had to give them an education on the soccer greats. They found out through Coach how Lightning soccer got started, and they educated me about Lightning (now).”

Subrahmanian and his mates honored social distancing, wearing masks and gloves and standing 6 feet apart as they tossed logs down the line. The junior estimated they stacked two cords within 90 minutes.

“It started out as a huge pile,” he added, “but many hands make light work.”

Mitchell was also struck by how humbly the Marauders discussed last year’s state championship season. The whole experience led him to significantly alter his arrangement with Grabill.

“Coach Grabill didn’t tell us the exact amount, but you could see the expression on his face when (Mitchell) said he was donating more than he intended,” Subrahmanian noted. “He was pretty happy with the result.”

Now the Marauders have a fan. And possibly a wood-stacking client for the future.

“They can show up here next year,” Mitchell offered, “same time.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at or 603-727-3226.

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