During the indoor Dartmouth Relays, nestled between collegiate races, is a very special race: the Grafton County One-Lapper. The race, in which children take to the track, is one of the most uplifting things I’ve witnessed.
One little girl in particular drew tremendous cheers and countless high fives as she made her lap. Beth, a young adopted member of the Dartmouth women’s track and field team, looked around at her fans and could not stop smiling.
Between travel and games, a rigorous practice schedule and team meetings, athletes are some of the busiest people I’ve met at Dartmouth. Yet despite demanding schedules, many Big Green athletes find time to give back to the Upper Valley community. In my last column, I wrote about the impact Dartmouth athletes had on me growing up in Hanover — yes, I have run the Grafton County One-Lapper — but the community’s impact on student-athletes is equally important.
Dartmouth Peak Performance strives to help student-athletes achieve high levels of “academic, athletic and personal growth,” during their time at Dartmouth. One way DP2 helps foster personal growth is by encouraging athletes to contribute to the Upper Valley community, often through partnership with the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth.
Several Dartmouth teams have “adopted” children receiving treatment at CHaD, offering them and their families support. By welcoming Beth, the women’s track team has committed to supporting her family.
We visited Beth at CHaD, got to know her parents and sent birthday and holiday cards. Beth has come to several track practices, and there are few things more joyous than seeing her run along the inside of the track with her buddies. Since she was brought into the Big Green track family three years ago, the team has seen Beth grow tremendously.
Dartmouth athletes also cook dinners at David’s House, a support center providing low- or no-cost housing for the families of children receiving care at CHaD. David’s House, located adjacent to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock campus, runs on donations and volunteers to provide meals to families. Each Sunday men’s lacrosse players visit to cook and serve meals, play with kids and meet volunteers. Beyond meeting community members, volunteering lets athletes get to know their teammates in a different setting.
Last fall, Dartmouth athletes from several teams volunteered at the CHaD Hero Half Marathon and five-kilometer races. The races, which feature start and finish lines on the Dartmouth Green, drew thousands of participants. Nordic skier Erik Fagerstrom ’14 and his teammates handed out medals at the finish line, assisted with the obstacle course and helped clean up.
Many Dartmouth student-athletes also volunteer at the Special Olympics each season. At the January Winter Games at the Dartmouth Skiway, varsity athletes from nine teams volunteered as helpers, at the food table or the awards podium.
Dartmouth athletes deserve cheers not just for what they do when fans are watching, but also for what they do off the field. Volunteering is a way to get outside the Dartmouth bubble, do something meaningful, learn and in a small way make the community we all share a better place. Fagerstrom said for him and his ski teammates “it’s about showing up and showing support.”
Despite losing touch after studying abroad and retiring from the track and field team, getting to know Beth was a valuable part of my experience as an athlete at Dartmouth. Watching Beth run was moment of joy and reflection, a clear reminder that being a student-athlete is much more than your win-loss record.