Student athletes set sights beyond sports, aim to give back to community

Many people do not think about the impact of student athletes off the field. However, Colby athletes do so much more than just their respective sport. Each year numerous sports teams participate in fundraisers, drives, and more. With so much attention and focus on athletics changing to become a more competitive force in the NESCAC and beyond, it is often forgotten to recognize some of the charitable work that these teams are participating in during their free time.

For the past three years the Men’s and Women’s lacrosse teams have been participating in the Dempsey Challenge. Combined, the two teams raised an incredible $8,000 this year that will help families who have been affected by cancer. Most recently, the student body has been receiving emails about the Men’s Lacrosse Team and their “Coat & Boot” Drive. The idea for the drive stemmed from the relationship the men’s lacrosse team has with south end of Waterville. Over the past year, members of the lacrosse team have been forming relationships with the youths of Waterville and their families, often through coaching and mentorship.

Forming the relationship with the south end even led to lacrosse team engaging in a clean-up in the south end of Waterville during the Dare Northward Campaign Launch. Taylor Haberstock ’19 was detailing their connection with Waterville and how it was mentioned to a player that there was a shortage of adequate winter clothing in the South End; “[it was this] that inspired the current Coat and Boot Drive… we are going to work with community leaders in the South End and other local communities…to distribute the apparel to those in need.”

Seeing the care and effort the team has put into the community, Haberstock sees a tremendous opportunity for the team of nearly 50 players to “mobilize our collective ability…to make a meaningful impact [in our local community].”

The team is leaving donation boxes around the school to collect any winter clothing and gear that people are willing to donate. Currently there are boxes located in the Spa and in the Foss with more planned to be placed throughout the other dining halls and dorms.

Earlier this year the men’s and Women’s Swim Team hosted a swim-a-thon fundraiser for those affected by the hurricane in Puerto Rico. Originally, the team had planned on going to Puerto Rico for a training trip over winter break, however, after seeing how many people were affected by the hurricane, they felt that it would be best to raise funds for hurricane relief. Matt Jones ’20 spoke to the importance of the work and how he really enjoys what the team does, feeling that “it is important to do things for others who many need more support or who benefit greatly from a few hours of our help.” At the start of the fundraiser the team had hoped to raise around $3,500 for relief efforts. However, through pledges and hard work the swim team raised a total of $5,000.

The event itself was organized by Allie Douma ’20, Emily Ambeliotis ’20, and Helen Sears ’20 (Women’s Rugby). When speaking about the event, Douma noted that “all the money went to an organization called United for Puerto Rico, which was created by the First Lady of Puerto Rico and all the money goes to hurricane relief which was a very important aspect for us.” The fundraiser itself consisted of each member on the team having a page on the fundraising page where people could pledge money for each lap swam or just a set amount. In past years the swim team has also participated in variety of events and volunteer work to benefit those in need. Last year the team ran in a 5K race to raise awareness to the sexualizing of girls’ costumes and to original spirit and wholesomeness of Halloween. The team plans on continuing planning events such as this one as they believe it is an extremely important aspect of the team to give back to the community.

While many of the teams focus on yearly drives and fundraisers, several women’s teams have taken a different approach through an initiative that began last spring known as the Mini Mules Sports Camp. Originally led by the women’s soccer team service leaders Samantha Rizzo ’19 and Hannah Brozdowski ’19 the program has since grown to have both Women’s Basketball and Softball dedicate their time to help run the camp. The camp itself is a weekly after-school program for fourth and fifth grade girls that focuses on providing opportunities for girls in the Waterville area to engage in physical activity through teambuilding and other various games. Each week members of each sports team (W. Soccer, W. Basketball, and Softball) organize and develop games for the campers to participate in for the hour-long session. Samantha Rizzo wrote how Mini Mules hopes to “provide structure and stability for the female students of the Waterville community.” The program has continued to be a resounding success with 48 girls signed up for participation in the camp.

As for why Rizzo and Brozdowski chose a sports camp, aside from being athletes, they believe that, because these students are about to begin middle school, a journey that can be extremely difficult as noted by Rizzo, “athletics can serve as an outlet for children struggling with familial, economic, or health issues.” But there is more to this service than just that. Rizzo believes that “There is far more to being a Colby College athlete than simply participating in games and practices throughout the year. Being an athlete at Colby means using athletics as an engine to drive change on campus and in the community.” As the program moves forward there are hopes that it will become a college-sanctioned club, allowing for greater growth beyond just the Waterville community.

Split between the fall and spring, the Men’s Rugby Team went looking for something to do in their off season. Spearheaded by captain Sam Swain ’19, the team found an opportunity to work with the 1001 Toy Drive. It started off as just the members of the rugby team donating any money they could to the toy drive, raising around $250. As to why the team decided to raise money, Swain mentioned how “it was pretty off the cuff…[but] we’re a team who…[has] received a very generous amount of support from alumni, friends, family, and school. I think kids call it ‘paying it forward.’” In the coming weeks the Men’s Rugby Team will begin to collect money for the toy drive again. However, the team is hoping to expand its network and reach out to the Women’s Rugby Team as well as friends and family for the fundraising this year.

These are just a few of the teams that take opportunities to engage in the community outside of just playing their sport. Colby is full of teams taking that extra step to make a difference for those around them, it just happens to be that these teams are almost only ever viewed in respect to their sport. With the meaningful work being done, it is only right to recognize the work these teams put in.