BRUNSWICK — If you walk into Bowdoin College’s Morrell Gymnasium during a home basketball game, you will immediately spot the most enthusiastic presence on the floor: ball boy Tim Garner, a 58-year-old, never-say-die, bundle of energy who loves his Bowdoin Polar Bears – every team, win or lose, every season.
Garner’s infectious energy provides the Bears with a secret weapon. But just as noteworthy, he teaches important lessons about the meaning of sports and the magic of humanity.
“Tim has such a passion for Bowdoin student-athletes,” head women’s basketball coach Adrienne Shibles said. “He works hard, and he’s totally dedicated to the team. He also helps our high-achieving kids keep things in perspective, helps them focus on the camaraderie.”
Head men’s coach Tim Gilbride adds, “Tim is great, an invaluable addition to the team. It’s a great situation for him and for our players.”
Garner grew up in Massachusetts, one of five children. His siblings are all married, and he has three nieces and two nephews. He moved to Maine about 15 years ago, and he now lives in an independent living apartment in Brunswick.
Garner gets assistance from the state, and his sister helps him manage his funds. He has no problem, though, finding positive ways to fill his time and help out the community.
Around 10 years ago, Garner approached the Bowdoin athletic office to see if he could help out the teams. Today he works with the basketball teams, the soccer teams and the women’s volleyball team. He loves all Bowdoin teams, but confesses that women’s basketball and women’s volleyball top the list.
“It doesn’t matter to me whether we win or lose,” he said. “I just like being out there.”
The players like having Tim “out there,” too.
“He’s so positive, so vocal, so helpful. Fans come and go, but Tim is always there,” Kaitlin Donohoe said.
Anna Prouhl added, “He tells you how well you’re playing even if you’re not.” “When you see Tim around town,” Megan Phelps said. “he always comes up and says, ‘Hi.’ He’s always a positive presence”
And Kirsten Prue said, “We love Tim.”
On the men’s side, Max Steiger said “Tim never has a bad day,” and Andrew Madlinger added “Tim is so optimistic, so high energy.”
Garner’s positive presence extends well beyond the courts and fields of Bowdoin. He works part-time at the Big Top Deli, and at the Broadway Deli. Every Monday, Garner volunteers at the soup kitchen in Brunswick, helping to stock shelves.
Tony Sachs, owner of the Big Top Deli, where Garner’s duties include loading stock and helping pick up around the place, said “Tim is awesome. He helps us out, and we try to help him out.”
He noted, too, that Garner used to sweep all the streets in front of several stores on Maine Street until he was too old to do so.
Gary Lawless, co-owner of Gulf of Maine Books, said “Tim delivers our paper, and he’s totally reliable. Plus he always tells me that I’m wearing nice colors, and that I look good. You gotta like that.”
Tim Garner is a familiar face at Bowdoin College sports events and throughout the Brunswick community.
One in a series of profiles by Brunswick writer David Treadwell about people who quietly contribute to the quality of life in greater Portland. Do you know an Unsung Hero? Tell us: firstname.lastname@example.org.