Dec. 18, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - This year, the Michigan State women’s soccer team took charge of their very own community outreach initiative. The coaching staff, with the support of the department of Student-Athlete Support Services (SASS), wanted to provide the players not only with the chance to reach out to the community, but take their own initiative in planning, organizing and facilitating a few special projects. Associate head coach Tammy Farnum explained what the staff wanted the players to take away from this experience.
“Every year, the women’s soccer program tries to find ways to bond as a team,” said Farnum. “Giving back to the community is very important to all of us and we’ve heard great stories over the years from our players when they’ve gotten involved with community outreach through SASS.
“Coach (Tom) Saxton came up with the idea to come up with the community outreach ideas and incorporated that with our team bonding. Obviously, then it could be as big or as meaningful as the players make it. It ended up being amazing.”
Prior to their season, the staff picked three community outreach ideas: the Haven House in East Lansing, the Teddy Bear Picnic, facilitated by MSU Pediatric and Oncology Department, and the Boys and Girls Club of Lansing. Three leadership groups were selected to head up each of the projects. Aside from that, they had no other direction or guidance.
The Spartans rose to meet their challenge and took trips to all three locations where they cooked, painted faces and even got to play a little soccer with some of the kids. The results continue to set a precedent for future endeavors, to which Farnum looks forward to.
“We will absolutely continue to do this outside of preseason because the best thing we thought came out of this experience was that this may create the opportunity for some of our players to reach out individually and as a team in many different areas,” Farnum said.
“We’ve benefited greatly from some of the experiences some of our student-athletes have been in. It’s gone on to change careers when they may have been on a more direct path. It’s a way for them to give on a face-to-face basis rather than behind the scenes. We were very honored that they represented the Michigan State Athletic Department so well in these areas.”
The players provided accounts of the experiences in their own words.
Sophomore Courtney Hammer, Roswell, Ga.
“A group of us went to serve at Haven House, one of the only homeless shelters in the East Lansing area where entire families can stay together, regardless of gender. Because of this setup, the shelter has a wide array of needs that must be met by volunteers, who can enhance the experience of the residents and ease the workload of the limited staff on hand. Prior to our arrival at Haven House, we received a lengthy list of tasks we could perform during our hours on site, like preparing dinner, playing with the children outside or in the playroom, and organizing donations.
“The volunteer coordinator, Gabriel Biber, gave us the freedom to choose the tasks we thought would make our experience there the most rewarding as possible. A large number of us wanted to cook a hearty dinner for the residents (since they typically rely on donations for meals and thus don’t always get a hot one), so we spent a few hours in the kitchen preparing dishes like hot dogs, salad, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, and cake.
“While waiting for the food to cook, some went and sorted through donated food and goods to organize the supply rooms. Other girls went to find kids to entertain. There was only one little boy on site, because unless there are volunteers at the shelter, children must be with their parents at all times. Nevertheless, he sure made everyone smile with his energetic nature and crazy dance moves. Overall, our group’s experience at Haven House was definitely worthwhile. It was great to go out and represent Michigan State women’s soccer in the community, demonstrating what being a true Spartan all is about.”
Teddy Bear Picnic
Sophomore Gabrielle Gauruder, South Lyon, Mich.
“Every year Sparrow Hospital’s pediatric oncology unit puts on a Teddy Bear Picnic for children who are experiencing an illness, and for their families. Here they can take their favorite stuffed animal through similar experiences they might go through with their sickness (casts, suture, Band-Aids). As a soccer team we felt blessed to partner up with this organization and be a positive light in someone’s day.
“We collected teddy bears from our team, parents, and coaches to give to some of the kids who didn’t show up with an animal. While collecting teddy bears we realized what it really means to be called a ‘Spartan Family.’ Everyone jumped at the opportunity to donate to kids in need and we ended up collecting over 50 teddy bears! You could tell it really made a difference to the kids.
“We were able to set up our own booth where the kids could play our game of kicking a soccer ball through the goal and past the ‘big bad goalie.’ I can assure you every kid walked away with a prize. We had quite the spread of prizes (bears, posters, mini soccer balls) and we got cleaned out so fast that we had some of our volunteers run to the store to get some candy!
“This picnic has a special place in our hearts and we will look forward to it every year. Overall the experience was wonderful, not only did we bond as a team, but we had the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, showing the true meaning of what it means to be a Spartan.”
Boys and Girls Club of Lansing
Junior Courtney Clem, Williamston, Mich.
“In October, several of our team visited the Boys and Girls Club of Lansing. Many may call this ‘volunteering our time.’ To tell you the truth, this experience may have been more rewarding to us than them.
“When we arrived, we were welcomed into an auditorium. This wasn’t an ordinary welcome or introduction. There were bleachers full of kids clapping and screaming on the top of their lungs. They were so excited that we were there. All of us were shocked at the reaction they had given us. We didn’t think that they would even know who were.
“After the introductions, we got to meet the kids. Immediately they all asked for our signatures. They wanted us to sign their notebooks, arms, basically anywhere we could sign. Many of the boys and girls then gave us tours of the club. They showed us things like the art room, game room and computer room. Most of the time we were there we played basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc., in the auditorium.
“Overall this was a great experience. We all had a blast playing with the kids. Being at the club really put things in perspective for all of us. It was crazy to see that only being there for couple of hours really made their day. Seeing the excitement they had playing games with us and showing us around the club was the most rewarding part of the trip. I think that visiting the club is something that our team should do regularly.”