MADISON, Wis. — When the UW Athletic Department unveiled the Badgers Give Back program in September 2012, it had one goal in mind — thank its fans and surrounding communities for their support by working alongside them to improve the place we all call home.
The department hoped the program would be well received. What has transpired in the past two years, however, has exceeded every expectation.
The feedback Badgers Athletics has heard is overwhelming. Last year, the department received 319 requests for student-athlete appearances at charitable events. Our student-athletes were able to appear at 280 events, volunteering a total of 8,100 hours. That’s 280 times that your love for the Badgers and giving back has provided our student-athletes with an opportunity to develop outside the realm of sport and interact with the community
UW Athletics has worked alongside you to benefit a number of worthy causes and charities. From hosting Wounded Warriors at Camp Randall Stadium and the Kohl Center, to visiting with patients at our beloved American Family Children’s Hospital, to visiting classrooms across Dane County to read and encourage literacy, our student-athletes have participated in a wide-range of events.
The department is also thankful for the many non-profit partnerships it has forged across Wisconsin.
“Not only are we thankful for the time our student-athletes have put into interacting with the community, but we’re also incredibly grateful for the support we receive from all of our friends and partners in Madison, Dane County and around our great state,” said Justin Doherty, UW associate athletic director for external relations. “Community interaction is a two-way street and UW Athletics is certainly fortunate to have the backing we do. We can’t say thanks enough.”
What the Badgers have experienced during those appearances has touched many and has become a treasured part of our student-athletes’ experience at Wisconsin.
“It’s humbling for all of us to be invited into homes and hospital rooms and into the lives of our fans,” said Kayla Gross, UW Athletics’ community relations coordinator. “We feel privileged to witness the tremendous acts of love, perseverance through difficult times and hope that we do every day. We feel tremendously fortunate to be part of a community filled with so many people who give so selflessly of their time and heart.”
UW Athletics is lucky to have a fan base that supports its efforts both on and off the field. Thank you Badger fans for inviting us into your communities and showing us the very best of Wisconsin.
The Badgers look forward to working alongside you for many years to come.
Our student-athletes say thank you in their own words, recounting the community service experiences they are most thankful for during the 2013-14 academic year:
A favorite outreach activity of the UW student-athletes is visiting the American Family Children’s Hospital. Last year, UW student-athletes made 34 visits to the hospital over the course of the academic year, visiting room-to-room with patients.
“Visiting the children’s hospital allows me to keep my life in perspective. It is one of the most humbling experiences and nothing brings me more joy than giving back. These children are going through things I cannot even imagine and yet, they are so positive and happy. They are my idols.”
– Ann Marie Brown, junior, women’s basketball | 24 Hours
UW Athletics and the children’s hospital partnered to become one of the first universities to adopt “Caleb’s Pitch,” a non-profit program that allows hospital patients to create artwork by shooting paint-filled syringes at a special target — a UW student-athlete holding the canvas! The program has shown to reduce the anxiety involved with needles and shots by allowing the patients to engage with the syringes in a fun, non-medical setting.
“It was such a great experience visiting patients at the children’s hospital. It’s hard to believe that some of these kids are facing life-threatening illnesses. I was humbled to be part of the experience that enriched my life as well. The children have such amazing courage; it felt great the brighten their day with the visit and have them squirt paint all over me!”
– Aja Van Hout, junior, women’s swimming & diving | 37 Hours
Inspired by their visits to the hospital, the UW football team partnered with the American Family Children’s Hospital to host the first “Shave to Save” event on Oct. 3, 2013. Childhood cancer patients were invited to Camp Randall Stadium to enjoy a pizza party, a tour of the stadium and the main event — shaving the heads of eight players. Two players also had their heads shaved at the hospital to accommodate patients who were unable to leave the hospital.
“My favorite part of the Shave to Save event was when my barber announced that he was ‘All done!’ and half my head was unshaved. The kids had such a blast seeing us with funny-looking haircuts. Knowing that they were cancer survivors made all the difference. Walking around with a funny haircut to make those kids smile was the least we could do after the journey they had throughout all of their treatment.”
– Lance Baretz, junior, football | 39 Hours
UW Athletics unveiled the WiscFit program in September 2013 to encourage healthy exercise and nutrition amongst area youth. The program brought student-athletes to local elementary school classrooms to take the students through an exercise-based activity and help them set health-related goals for the semester. Classrooms made intermediate and long-term goals for healthy lifestyles. Once they reached their goals, they enjoyed a party with Bucky Badger.
“It’s so much fun going into schools and giving kids a little glimpse of what we know about leading a healthy life. They are always eager to hear what we have to say! It’s important for them to know that a healthy lifestyle is a major factor in how we all got to UW. It’s amazing that we are able to make an impact and potentially influence the choices of future Badgers.”
– Kodee Williams, senior, women’s soccer | 28 Hours
On March 3, 2014, student-athletes went on a 10-tour visit across Madison area elementary schools to promote literacy. Student-athlete efforts extended to the American Family Children’s Hospital, as well as outside of Dane County through Skype visits.
“Read Across America Day was a great way to give back to the community by promoting literacy in a fun way. Kids look up to student-athletes like us and you could tell their enthusiasm, Badger attire and curious questions that our visit meant a lot to them. I was able to attend a school in my hometown, so, on a more personal level, it was great to be able to show kids that hard work pays off and that this could be them some day.”
– Taylor Zimprich, sophomore, women’s track and cross country | 53.3 Hours
Members of the women’s hockey team visited the Capitol Lakes Senior Center weekly to interact with the residents and play card games. The highlight of the season was when the team invited several residents of the center to LaBahn Arena to watch them play against Minnesota.
“During one visit to the senior center, a resident insisted on showing us that she was on Google and, while we were reading the site out loud to her and tried to gloss over a portion, she totally called us out because she had the page memorized. She didn’t want us to miss one word. Moments like that are what stick out to me. The residents of the senior center are such funny people, full of energy and wit and it was fun to interact with them. I think people sometimes forget about them, but they are huge fans and do a lot to support Badger Athletics. I loved being able to thank them for that.”
– Madison Packer, senior, women’s hockey | 25 Hours
This year both football and men’s basketball had the honor of hosting the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization that serves to honor and empower warriors who have been injured in mind, body or soul since 9/11. Men’s basketball hosted 20 native Wisconsin veterans from the Wounded Warrior Project at one of their January practices. After practice the veterans had the chance to meet the players and coaching staff.
“Having the opportunity to meet people who risked their lives for the betterment of our nation was incredible. We wanted to do anything in our power to show our appreciation. The most memorable part was just seeing how something as simple as practicing in front of them could bring such joy to their faces.”
– Duje Dukan, junior, men’s basketball | 15 Hours
Student-athletes bonded over a shared love of sport with athletes of Special Olympics Wisconsin at several events this past year. Some of the highlights include Freezin’ for a Reason, the Valentine’s Day Dance and the Activation Youth Summit.
“The best part of the Special Olympics dance for me was when we were leaving and many of the athletes came up to give us hugs and were saying things like, ‘See you next year!’ It was cool to see that it was something that they really looked forward to and enjoyed. I can’t wait to go back next year!”
– Ben Cox, senior, wrestling | 34 Hours
The men’s hockey team first met Lucy Cunningham during a routine visit to the American Family Children’s Hospital. After finding out the 5-year-old had never been to a Badgers game, the team invited her in to watch practice and to see them play at the Kohl Center against Minnesota. Since the game, four members of the team — Joel Rumpel, Tyler Barnes, Nic Kerdiles and Mark Zengerle — have continued to visit the family regularly and have become “Lucy’s boys.”
“My most memorable moment from last year was meeting Lucy Cunningham. It was on a regular visit to the children’s hospital, like our team has done every week during the season, but on this special occasion we met a strong little girl named Lucy, who has taught us more life lessons than we could ever teach her. I’m honored to have met her and to consider her family life-long friends!”
– Joel Rumpel, junior, men’s hockey | 15 Hours
Inspired by the Make-A-Wish organization, the UW Athletic Department began fulfilling the wishes of young Badgers fans facing serious illness several years ago through its Wish Upon A Badger program. This year’s “Wish Upon a Badger” recipient was 9-year-old Daniel. Daniel is a big fan of UW soccer, so the men’s soccer team hosted him at a practice where he received a jersey and soccer ball signed by the entire team. Daniel was also honored as an honorary captain at the home game against Michigan State.
“Our team really loved getting to know Daniel. It is really incredible knowing that we could give him a cool experience that would make his day, especially with everything he was going through. We know that as members of the UW Soccer team he looked up to us, but we also looked up to him after everything he has gone through and the strength he has shown throughout it all. He is an inspiration to us, so we wanted to do anything we could to take his mind off being sick for a day. We have really enjoyed getting to know him, and we still stay in touch with him and have adopted him as a member of our team.”
– Trevor Wheeler, senior, men’s soccer | 20 Hours