Student athletes at Saginaw Valley give a lot on the field, but what some might not realize is that they give just as much off of the field, too.
Throughout the year, many of the SVSU sports teams make an effort to give back to their community through different types of community engagement and community service.
What makes Saginaw Valley a place where you can find such a relationship between players and the community is the selflessness of the players, but also the athletic department’s goal of giving back.
On Saturday, Jan. 31, SVSU Athletics hosted its seventh annual “Breast Cancer Survivor Recognition” event. During halftime of the “Pink Wave” women’s basketball game against Ferris State University, breast cancer survivors were escorted onto the court by the men’s basketball players and were then individually recognized.
“(One of our) goals is community service and community engagement and for our student athletes to be involved,” SVSU athletic director Mike Watson said.
Watson added that it is crucial for the student athletes to give back because they have been given great opportunities and consequently have the ability to do so.
“We have young men and young women that are coming through our program, competing on our athletic teams, and the reason that they are competing on our teams is that they are very talented at whatever their sport is,” he said. “They’ve been given a gift to perform at their sport, and oftentimes it helps pay their way through college.
“We want our student athletes to understand that they need to give back or make a major contribution to those who have not been given or afforded the same opportunities that they have been given.”
When asked if he or his teammates do any charity work, baseball player Chris Perkovich’s first response was, “Yeah, do you have an idea for us?” He and his teammates have made sure to do their part in giving back.
“We’ve gone and helped serve food to the less fortunate in Saginaw, and just seeing the smiles on their faces made it awesome,” Perkovich said. “We got to sit down and talk to people as well, and it’s just really humbling.”
Perkovich added that the team also goes to the Great Lakes Bay Miracle League, a non-profit organization that helps children with physical and mental disabilities.
“The Miracle League is the coolest thing,” he said. “To be there helping kids out and just seeing them have fun out there is second to none.
“Those kids really look up to us and you really can’t beat it.”
Some of the events put on by the athletic department and athletic teams include the Cardinals Kids Club and the Community Youth Days, two events that bring the youth in the community closer with the student athletes.
The Community Youth Days is an event that brings area children from K-8th grade onto campus where they get to meet student athletes. The athletes teach the children the fundamentals of their respective games before signing autographs in the final portion of the event.
Ashley Henderson and the rest of the SVSU women’s soccer team helped out at the Community Youth Days earlier this year. When the sophomore forward isn’t scoring goals for the team, she is doing her part in the community. She said that the experiences have been truly inspiring.
“Being athletes, I think it inspires kids when we volunteer,” Henderson said. “Kids really look up to college athletes and follow them as role models.
“I like volunteering because I know I’m helping more people than just the [people attending the] event.”
In addition to the Community Youth Days, teams also put forth individual fundraisers. One example is last Saturday’s “Pink Wave” basketball game. It was the 7th annual “Breast Cancer Survivor Recognition” event, and at halftime of the women’s basketball game that day, breast cancer
survivors were escorted onto the court by the players and recognized by their name. Money that was raised is allocated to Covenant Healthcare, where it is used to allow women without insurance to be checked for early signs of breast cancer. Watson estimates that 20-25 women have been
able to get help and beat breast cancer due to money raised by SVSU.
In October, SVSU will host its 7th annual “Trunk or Treat” event that is put on by the SVSU athletic department inside the O’Neill Arena. The event offers its own form of community engagement. Children come to campus to trick or treat with their parents and grandparents, allowing for a fun
It is events such as these that have helped SVSU win two Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) awards and three NCAA awards for community service and community engagement.
Watson added that not only do these opportunities to give back help the community, but they also help the student athletes become leaders.
“Part of the responsibility of being a college graduate is that no matter where you live in this country, you are probably more than likely going to be deemed a leader,” he said. “Part of the responsibility of being a leader is to give back, and so we really try to drive that point home.”
As the players give back to their community, Watson says that they buy in to the act of giving.
“We had hoped that because of our goal as a department to give back to the community, our teams would buy into that, and they have,” he said. “As a department we don’t control all of the things that our teams do, so much of it is on them.”
Watson is hopeful that the student athletes get the confirmation that they are doing something good from the community service and community engagement.
“You know you’re doing something good, and that’s all I really want our students to understand,” he said. “You’re trying to do something good, and I hope people walk away from it feeling good about it.
“I just believe there’s more to athletics than wins and losses.”
by: Joey Oliver