August 18th, 2016

Hyland's Heroes: Dario Saldana's

Samantha Stallings

Staff Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Dario Saldana's
Dario and Kathy Saldana / photo provided by the Saldana family

The following feature is a part of a bi-weekly series, sponsored by Hyland Insurance. "Hyland's Heroes" is a series of profiles that spotlight Louisville area Catholic volunteers, coaches and administrators who assist athletic programs and teams, and help promote excellence in all aspects of sports.

Know someone that you think should be featured as the next "Hyland's Hero”? Send your recommendation to

Dario Saldana was born in Mexico and moved to the US when he was one month old. He attended Gadsden High School in Anthony N.M. and graduated from The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) with a BS in Microbiology and Biochemistry.

Dario retired from the Navy after serving proudly for 21 years.  He has been married for 27 years to Kathy Saldana and have six children. All six have ran for Dario at some point in their life.

When and how did you get your start with St. Bernard?

I began working at St. Bernard in 1998. We moved from Texas and we enrolled our four youngest at St. Bernard. Matt, my third grader at the time, decided he wanted to run cross country. He had been running along with me for some time but I felt joining a team would provide him with an incredible experience. I asked coach Dan Magruder if I could help and he allowed me to help with the younger kids.

Who asked you to contribute or what got you involved?

Coach Magruder had a small team and I was eager to help. Matt and I ran in the Pig run that summer and I knew that he was a runner. I knew that I wanted to help him develop his skill.

What sports did or do you volunteer to help and for how long?

With six kids, I had to get involved with helping coach any of the sports that the kids wanted to join. They all ran cross country, track, flag football, basketball, volleyball, soccer, and baseball. As you know schools are always in need of coaching volunteers. I coached both soccer and basketball for a couple of years. This is my 18th year as a cross country and track coach.

What’s the connection with your faith and giving your time to student athletes?

My connection between my faith and coaching is weaved together. This relationship has changed and evolved into a true ministry for me. I wanted to be deacon but after I went through the discovery process I realized that my heart was not 100% in it. I knew that God had blessed me with the gift of smiling and making kids comfortable. I am a Homebound Eucharistic minister and when I visit our older parishioners and share the Eucharist, I see a wonderful connection between the young kids that I coach and my homebound parishioners. God has allowed me to share in both of my loves connecting with the kids and people’s lives. I see the spirit in both.

Who was the most influential person on your volunteer career? Why?

Of course the most influential people in my volunteer career are my parents. We were quite poor growing up yet my parents always found a way to help out at the church. I helped them run the bingos, clean the church, cook food for the school festivals, take food to the poor. I told my Dad that I would not be volunteering when I grew up. God heard me and laughed! My Father tended to my mom for 11 years when she was sick. After she passed he continued and expanded his volunteering. My dad is 86 years old and still gets up at 6 am to get the church ready for morning masses. He volunteers at the soup kitchen from 10-2. Finally, he helps with discussions and talks with family encounter groups. If an 86 year old man can continue to do God’s work, I know that I can.

What are your major themes/principle as a volunteer?

I do not look at what I do as volunteering. For me it is a ministry. My job is not to teach the kids to be great runners. My job is to teach the kids that they are all special with wonderful gifts from God. I teach them that by working hard that they are honoring God. My job is to help the kids develop a loving relationship with God through running. My job is to teach the kids to breath, to relax, proper form, and most importantly to have fun. I emphasize to them that running will help them in every sport. The most rewarding gift that God has given me is when we have our team mass, Father allows me to give communion to my team and parents. For me, there is no other moment that offers such an intimate connection with my kids, God, and myself.

What does your role at St. Bernard bring your family?

My role at St. Bernard has been a part of my family each and every day of our lives since we arrived in 1998. The St. Bernard community welcomed us with such love.  This wonderful community is our family. My four youngest have seen both my wife and myself helping at St. Bernard and of course the kids have been at our side for most of the time. My wife has been so supportive of my coaching for the past 18 years. She will make the cakes for the end of season Fiesta. My kids have helped me coach off and on during this time. My coaching now keeps me busy nine months out of the year. I would not be able to do this without their support. As parents, we must not only talk the talk, we must walk the walk. We have to be the best role models that we can be with our God given opportunities.

What are the fondest experiences or memories you have of your volunteer time?

At this point in my career the fondest memories have been coaching my own kids. In addition, I have been blessed with starting to coach my granddaughter and grandson. As far as a specific memory that has added to my love of coaching, is when we had a late track meet at Central High School. I had the opportunity to enter all of the kids into this competition. One of my favorite runners had some social communication challenges and his parents signed him up to run with me. He took to running with such enthusiasm. We worked on breathing and relaxation. He never complained and always finished his work outs with a smile. As the seasons went on he talked more and his communication improved. Anyway, at this meet, I had him entered to compete to run the 400, 800, and mile. He finished all 3. On his way home his mom took a picture of him asleep in the van. I looked at the picture and realized that I had overworked him. I was so ashamed that I must learn to be better. I realized that I need to be a better coach more aware of the kids’ efforts. This young man would never say no. It was up to me to be his advocate and make sure that I had to take care of him by not overworking him. I had to be more empathic.  This was such an enlightening moment for me. And I vowed to myself to be better at understanding the child as a whole.


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