SOUTH BURLINGTON Mentor. Humanitarian. Artist. These are just a few words that have been used to describe volunteer head coach of the South Burlington Dolphins, Rene LaBerge. However, his impact has extended far beyond the game of football, and a community showed its appreciation last Saturday.
LaBerge was honored at a surprise reception held at J.C. Park for his tireless dedication to offering the youth of Vermont guidance, inspiration, and a reason to go outside and get active over the course of his extensive career.
Friends, family, fellow coaches, and football players past and present joined LaBerge amid black and orange balloons and banners representing the Dolphins team colors to enjoy music, a barbeque, and an assortment of speeches singing his praises. Among the group of speakers were former Middlebury College Head Coach and President of the Vermont Chapter of the Nation Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, Mickey Heinecken, South Burlington Rebels coach Joe MacDonald, Dolphins alumni Luke Snelling, and Governor Jim Douglas.
The governor presented LaBerge with a certificate officially designating Aug. 12 as Rene LaBerge Day. LaBerge was also given tickets to the 2007 Army Navy football game to take place in Maryland accompanied by a copy of the book, America Classic: Army vs. Navy the First 100 Games.
Rene LaBerge started the Dolphins program in 1967, when it was just a flag football team an avocation. LaBerge built a locker room in his basement where young athletes were provided with equipment and uniforms that he would have washed for them day in and day out.
The Dolphins team has grown exponentially over the years from just 30 players to over 130 separated into three age divisions including first through fourth grade flag football, fifth and sixth grade tackle, and seventh and eight grade tackle. LaBerge later took part in founding the Northern Vermont Youth Football League and established the Dolphin Foundation to finance the volunteer football program. He now holds a seat as a board member of the Vermont Chapter of the National Football Foundation.