For EWU athletes and the athletic department, serving the community is a big part of what they do in addition to scoring touchdowns and making baskets.
“Our student-athletes take an active role in the community. [This] is one of the missions and goals of the strategic plan of the university,” assistant athletic director for compliance Joel Vickery said. “The athletic department definitely buys into that.”
According to Vickery, last year the athletic department had over 500 hours of community service. One of the events that Eastern athletics usually take part in are stuffed animal drives, where they donate stuffed animals to children’s hospitals.
EWU athletics also takes part in reading to school children, and helping with Feed Cheney, which is a free meal and free grocery distribution for people in need. They participate in school supply drives and coin drives, which help the less fortunate gain access to shoes. Around $600 was collected for this year’s coin drive. For the school supply drive, Eastern athletics collaborated with the Africana studies department.
The Eastern football team also helped raise $3,100 for Special Olympics at Polar Plunge. “The Polar Plunge was actually a great time for us,” sophomore defensive back Jordan Tonani said. “We had quite a few guys that went out and participated. Coach [Beau] Baldwin came initially to support us, but he ended up coming in with us and jumping in the lake.”
“From what I’ve noticed in seeing and being a part of some of the initiatives that the student-athletes take on is they all have a lot of fun when they do [community service],” Vickery said. “I think they really find the joy of service whenever they go and do that stuff.”
Vickery mentions that a lot of the different EWU sports teams usually do community service on their own. However, there is a group within Eastern athletics called SAAC, student-athlete advisory committee, which includes a number of Eastern athletes getting together to serve the community. When a sport is out of season, teams usually have a little bit more time to provide their services to the community.
Track and field sprinter senior Angelica Rodriguez participated in the AVID program, or advancement via individual determination program, at Cheney High School during fall quarter. AVID is a program that is structured to increase learning and performance for students. She also participated in the Windsor Elementary Fitness Frenzy.
Rodriguez, who is also the SAAC president, is responsible for leading community service projects. The group organizes assignments and goals for the projects. They communicate and get feedback from each other in order to execute the projects in the best way.
Rodriguez sees the importance of serving the community as a learning experience for EWU athletes. “Each student-athlete then has the opportunity to learn something from these things going on around them that are outside of the athletic and academic worlds that they live in,” Rodriguez said.
“In serving the community, sometimes it seems that the way I can serve is insignificant or stressful at times,” Rodriguez said. “But those that I have the opportunity to serve may see it differently.”
Rodriquez is humbled to think that even small acts of kindness can mean a lot to people.
“It’s important for them to do that to understand that their entire lives are going to have aspects of that,” Vickery said. He explains that even when athletes move on and graduate college, they will probably take part in serving the community in their futures. Because they understand the feeling of helping people in need.
“It doesn’t really change for any of us professionally who’ve gone on and graduated school. I know the college here and the athletic department, we all try to give back in ways for charitable organizations and events,” Vickery said.
Vickery appreciates the generosity that the athletes have with their time. “That’s what’s been so impressive to me is to see really just the good nature and the good hearts that a lot of our student-athletes have,” Vickery said.
Tonani expresses his feelings about community service and how it affects him. “It’s a good feeling as just a human to be able to help people out who aren’t necessarily as fortunate as you,” Tonani said. “Someone has helped you out along the way so why not give back and help someone else out as well, it’s very important to be doing things like that.”
Rodriguez plans on volunteering for the Special Olympics track meet held in Cheney in the spring. The school supply drive is also going to end on March 8 during the men’s basketball game against Weber State. Tonani plans on reading to grade school students about his college experience.
By Elohino Theodore