CHICAGO – There were 240 Blue Demon student-athletes and managers gathered in McGrath-Phillips Arena on Tuesday as the DePaul Athletics Department Orientation program approached its conclusion.
They listened intently as Sr. Katie Norris, Director of Catholic Campus Ministry, prepared them for a special service project they were about to undertake.
Before long, the student-athletes were spread out across the arena floor and began to make blankets.
Sister Katie told them about the 600 children in day-care programs at the St. Vincent de Paul Center and the Marillac House whose parents were either working or attending school in an effort to better their families’ lives.
“The children use the fleece blankets when taking their naps,” Norris said. “Being away from home, lying in a cot six inches off the ground—and the lights go out. It can be an uncomfortable feeling for a two-year-old. They cuddle up with their blankets and find comfort.
“The first thing a child does when he or she gets the blanket is start hugging it to their face because it’s so soft. They get excited when the student-athletes—the children call them ‘the big people’— come in with the blankets. Some of the children only come up to the athlete’s knees, and they’ll give them a knee hug.
“These blankets are such a source of comfort for the kids. Their parents are working or going to school, and we are lending a hand to help them get their lives together.”
Freshman men’s soccer player Alessandro Thomas from Sigonella, Italy was putting his own personal touch on the blanket he was designing.
Thomas has played in three games during DePaul’s 2-2 opening run and started in the 4-3 comeback win Sept. 1 at Green Bay. The rookie forward picked up his first collegiate point with an assist on Anthony Hunter’s golden goal in overtime.
“A large group of people have come together during Orientation to talk about bringing pride to DePaul and having success in all the different athletic programs,” Thomas said. “I’ve been learning a lot.
“Making the blankets is a great way for us to give back to the community. I’ve always enjoyed doing things that help children and always been fond of giving back to the community. I make it a personal goal to try and help those who are less fortunate than we are.
Freshman softball player Hannah Hosty from southwest suburban New Lenox said she had a better understanding of DePaul’s mission after participating in Orientation 2014.
“Orientation is a great program where you get to meet student-athletes from other teams,” Hosty said. “You are a part of more than 200 athletes who learn what the expectations are for us in the upcoming school year.
“It’s really great to help so many children with these blankets. It gives them something they can hug during their naps. This project speaks to the character and humility of DePaul.
“It’s important that all of us gathered in one place and learned about St. Vincent de Paul and what he believed in so strongly. Making the blankets was a great team-bonding exercise, we got to know other athletes and we had a good time while doing it.”
Sister Katie saw a correlation between making blankets and the work of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac, co-founders of the Daughters of Charity.
“A lot of what St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac did was involved with community service and helping the less fortunate,” Norris said. “This is a good way for the student-athletes at DePaul to learn about that mission and to give back to the community.
“They have been blessed with the gift of athleticism, and with this project, they now have an opportunity to do something for the children. I absolutely love what DePaul’s student-athletes are doing.
“St. Vincent and St. Louise would match up resources with those in need. With this project, I think it’s a wonderful way of matching the athletes’ energy and enthusiasm for the benefit of so many children at the two day-care centers.”