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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Student athletes give back to community

<ena Williams, LeBron James and J.J. Watt are all at the top of their respective sports yet are also known for their incredible work to improve communities and provide help to those in need. The charitable nature shared by many high-level professional athletes is reflected amongst Carleton athletics, and several teams have gone above and beyond to provide for their various communities.     

Carleton Football’s motto is “keep stackin,’” alluding to the laying of bricks to form a strong foundation. “Lately, the team has been stackin’ up coolers full of food, as they have been volunteering for Meals on Wheels, a community-based service that provides fresh, nutritious meals delivered directly to the homes of seniors and individuals with disabilities.” Eric Stadelman described the program as a long-term Carleton tradition. “[The program] is a passed down tradition from [former football coach] Bob Pagel… and it’s a one week deal where we work every day. There are about five or six routes that we can take, and at 12:00 every day for a week we take anywhere from three to six meals to people who for whatever reason, don’t have access to food or a store.” 

 Logistically, the program is quite rigorous, demanding multiple players work to keep things going throughout the week. “There are six different shifts, and each shift requires one, maybe two people, so there are always at least six football players working every day,” said Stadelman, who believes that the team enjoys the overall experience. “It’s nice to give back to the community once in a while, just because we think that Northfield, as a general rule, is a pretty great place, and it feels good to give back. We would want to do the same for our grandparents if they were in need.” 

The football team’s work doesn’t stop with Meals on Wheels; the squad also volunteers with local flag football teams, coaching teams for two days each week during their season, a job that combines their athletic craft with community service.

Carleton Volleyball has also made community service a cornerstone of their team culture under new coach Jacki Smith, pledging to do one community service project a term, with a general focus on helping women and girls, especially female athletes. This term, the squad is raising money and collecting menstrual products for I Support the Girls, an organization that helps provide bras and menstrual hygiene products for girls and women experiencing homelessness.” 

Student-athlete Sarah Grier ’21 recommended I support the Girls as a worthwhile organization for the squad’s fundraising efforts, partially due to its strong local influence. “They had a branch that was local, and we really wanted this [program] to [make an] impact as close to our own community as we could.” Although the program doesn’t specifically donate to athletes, Grier cites the importance of menstrual products in the female athletic experience as one of the driving forces behind choosing I Support the Girls. 

“We chose [I Support the Girls] because it’s such a foundational thing [for athletes]. It’s such a hard thing to even imagine playing a sport without having access to tampons and pads because it’s so hard to talk about, and there’s a stigma behind it, so a lot of us are trying to help break down that barrier by destigmatizing [menstrual products] and providing [recipients] with access to the same things that their peers would have.” 

 Volleyball player Celeste Chen ’20 outlined the process of collecting donations. “Our players are tabling [at Sayles Café] every day, we are going to be working at [athletic events] to try to get people to donate, and I run the [fundraising] Venmo account. It’s something that the girls really work hard on.” Chen also was excited about the prominent role that first-year volleyball players were taking in the fundraising process. “A lot of the freshman have been very active in tabling, and they’re jazzed about the idea of helping women.” Carleton Volleyball has made a commitment to community service, and we can expect more fundraisers and social justice work from the squad in the upcoming terms and beyond.

Carleton’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), a NCAA organization dedicated to representing athletes at member institutions, works closely with Special Olympics, an organization that strives to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. 

Jona Plevin ’19, a volleyball player and SAAC conference representative and Special Olympics coordinator, has been part of the effort to increase the work that the SAAC does with Special Olympics. “One of our big goals this year in SAAC was to get Carleton listed as a Champion school with Special Olympics. We were given this title [as a Champion school] at the beginning of the term since we qualify by having a Special Olympics club, [as well as a] connection to a local Special Olympics group.” 

Plevin highlighted a cooperative effort with St. Olaf as one of the most successful events of the year. “Our big Special Olympics event was this winter; we did a rivalry basketball game with St. Olaf. We had students from Carleton, St. Olaf, and local Special Olympics athletes [come together] and we had a tournament the same weekend as the MIAC matchup between the schools. We re-created the GOAT trophy, (the trophy to be given to the victor of the Carleton-St. Olaf men’s basketball game) which is now kept in West Gym.” 

Carleton is not alone in their involvement with Special Olympics. The rest of the MIAC athletic conference have taken it upon themselves to increase their work with the organization. Plevin stated, “The MIAC is on its way to being a champion conference, I believe the goal is to have 75% of the schools be champion schools.” The Football, Volleyball, and SAAC community service projects are only a small snippet of the charitable work done by student-athletes at Carleton, where team-building and community-building go hand in hand.

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