Abby Phelps was accustomed to the scenic views of the North Cascades near her hometown of Manson, Washington. This time, though, the beauty was gone.
She rode along with her Western Washington University volleyball team, taking in the familiar green scenery – then it gave way to a desolate black. Houses had vanished. The landscape was charred. This summer, the largest wildfire in state history destroyed everything in that swath of north central Washington.
That is why the Western Washington volleyball team made the more than 200-mile trip from Bellingham, Washington. On Aug. 22, the student-athletes helped organize clothing and food donations at a distribution center in Pateros for residents affected by the fire. The next evening, the Vikings hosted a charity intrasquad match at Phelps’ former high school, an event that raised more than $1,200 for a fire relief fund.
“It was really hard to see all the devastation; that was the first time I had seen it,” Phelps said. Yet amid the destruction, the freshman was taken aback for another reason. “It was really humbling to see everyone pull together.”
The fire hit close to home for another member of the Vikings team – freshman Brette Boesel’s uncle lost his home in the blaze. An opportunity to give back to her community was rewarding, Boesel said. And doing it with her teammates by her side helped her find something positive amid the ashes.
“Our coach Diane (Flick) has been talking all season about putting things in perspective,” Boesel said. “One of the things she said was, ‘If you’re going to shank a pass, it’s not the end of the world. Some person has lost their home.’ It’s really cool to be part of a program that’s not just about volleyball. It’s about the bigger picture.”
More acts of kindness
In July, Ian Kallay, a runner on the Wright State University cross country team, completed a 37-day bike trip, raising awareness and $10,000 to fight human trafficking. His journey spanned 3,207 miles and nine states, but it nearly ended early when Kallay flipped over a tree branch and fractured his hand. Eighty-seven miles from the end of his journey and refusing to give up, he ran the remainder of the way, finishing that painful final stretch in three days.
Coppin State University student-athletes served as coaches, counselors and mentors at a science, technology, engineering and mathematics robotics camp this summer for kids in inner-city Baltimore. The student-athletes and athletics department staff led the physical activity portion of the learning program, which served kids in fifth through eighth grades.