Varsity volunteers practice community service

Campus athletic teams receive most of their renown for winning on the field, and most of their infamy from stories of weekend partying gone awry. Their one activity that flies below the radar is teams’ participation in community service projects and programs, both on campus and in the larger Berkshire area.

Like many other teams, softball sends members to Pownal Elementary for its after-school tutoring program. The team also helps out with after school activities at the Williamstown Youth Center and Williamstown Elementary. The program at the Williamstown Youth Center was a collaborative effort by softball, women’s hockey and baseball, among others. Team members engage with the kids, playing sports with them and generally serving as positive role models.

Meanwhile, Books, Fun and Neighbors is a program that was initially created by women’s soccer, but the women’s hockey team took it over and runs it during the winter. “Once a week, we had local elementary school kids over to Lasell Gym,” said Sam Tarnasky ’09, co-captain of women’s hockey. “We helped them with their homework, everything from math questions to reading aloud to science worksheets, for half an hour and then played some indoor games to promote the importance of living a healthy and balanced life. We had anywhere from 10-30 kids most nights and an ever-changing group.”

The Berkshire Fuel Assistance Program helps cut costs of utilities for families in need, and the Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) ran an event called Powerade Pong this past winter to help raise money for the program. Powerade Pong, as you may have guessed, is similar in style to the popular drinking game Beirut, but uses Powerade instead of alcohol. The game’s popularity among college students helped the SAAC recruit about 50 participants. The majority of the pong teams were comprised of varsity athletes, varsity coaches and assistant coaches. Even professors contributed to the cause. The event, which was sponsored by Powerade, Stop ‘N Shop and Where’d You Get That?! raised $500, all of which was donated directly to the Berkshire Fuel Assistance Program.

“The [program] assists families in a fairly large area and after looking into charity options, we decided this particular one made the most difference locally, which is why we chose to raise money for it,” said Tarnasky, co-president of the SAAC. “SAAC is planning to make it a yearly event and hopefully increase the donation made each year.”

The men’s and women’s cross-country teams sent groups of volunteers this fall to Peace Valley Farm to work on a house for Habitat for Humanity. The project was undertaken on the teams’ one weekend off during the fall season, during which they hold a community service day.

“It is a relatively new tradition, but one I believe we will keep in following years,” said men’s cross-country co-captain Brooks Udelsman ’09.

When tragedy, illness or misfortune falls upon a fellow Eph, some teams have been quick to offer even more than their kind words and support. Some recent initiatives have been motivated by hardships endured by those close to a particular student-athlete or a whole team. Recently, upon hearing of the sudden death of men’s rugby alum Jonathan Siegelbaum ’95, the team raised $500 for his favorite charity and sent a signed ball to his family.

Teams have focused on national organizations as well. The softball team has been particularly active this season with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “We have a team little sister, Taryn Murphy, who we have adopted through the Friends of Jaclyn program,” said softball co-captain Joey Lye ’09. “She is Jacyln’s sister and had a life-altering experience when Jaclyn was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Taryn was at our games this weekend and has become a part of our team this year. We provide as much love and support for her as we can and really enjoy having her around.”

Between games this weekend, Becky Sansone ’09 and Taryn presented a Pittsfield family representing the Make-A-Wish Foundation with a check for $5,798.65. During the team’s spring break training trip in California they held a fundraiser asking supporters to donate money based on their stats or to give a flat donation in hopes of raising enough money to grant a child’s wish, according to Lye.

“I am a huge believer in the good that our sports teams do on campus,” said women’s soccer co-captain Clare Gallagher ’09.