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Louisville, Arkansas Tech and Western Connecticut State earn NCAA community service award

Team Works Helper Helper award is based on number of community service hours and volunteers

Student-athletes at Louisville, Arkansas Tech and Western Connecticut State have earned the NCAA Team Works Community Service Competition award powered by Helper Helper for their community outreach efforts this fall.

NCAA Team Works, which coordinates community service efforts at NCAA championships, and Helper Helper, a volunteer management and tracking platform, launched the community service competition to recognize student-athletes who give back to their communities. The competition, which ran from September through November, is based on the number of service hours completed and the number of participating student-athletes. Helper Helper tracks the school participation data throughout the competition.

Cheerleaders and women’s soccer team members were among those taking part in the 2019 Kyle’s Korner for Kids event, which was established in 2011 by basketball student-athlete Kyle Kuric. At one basketball game each year, fans are asked to donate toys for charity. Credit: University of Louisville photo

Louisville earned first place in the Division I category. More than 700 student-athletes participated in community outreach, totaling 6,816 hours collectively. They shared their time and talents at food and toy drives and participated in pen pal and after-school mentoring programs. They participated in 180 total events, with many focusing on local youths, spending over 600 hours at Norton’s Children's Hospital and hosting 36 events with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana.

“The city of Louisville rallies around all of the student-athletes here, so we love when we get the opportunity to give back to the community that continues to give us so much,” said Celene Funke, a senior softball student-athlete at Louisville, who is also a SAAC and ACC representative. “Finishing at the top of the Team Works challenge is awesome to know that we are impacting this city in a positive way.”

“We are incredibly proud to be as highly ranked in community service as we are in athletics,” said Vince Tyra, Louisville director of athletics. “We have great leaders in our athletic department that provide our student-athletes an opportunity to give back to so many causes in the Louisville community. Our student athletes love giving back and are learning while doing so.”

Arkansas Tech student-athletes had a perfect 100% participation rate. Credit: Arkansas Tech University photo

For the second year in a row, the student-athletes at Arkansas Tech earned first-place honors in the Division II category.  The school had 100% participation from its student-athletes, who completed 5,706 hours of work in the community. The athletes donated time to 15 local nonprofits, including Jacob’s Place, the Ronald McDonald House and Arkansas Children’s Hospital. They also spent over 500 hours volunteering at “Paint the Town Green and Gold,” an event that hosts games with the Special Olympics and community members.

“When we are at an elementary school and working with younger kids, we get to be role models because they think we are superstars,” said Hunter Eshnaur, a four-year letter winner in volleyball. “When you come to Arkansas Tech to play sports, you aren’t just signing up to play your sport. You have many responsibilities, and one of them is community service because service plays a huge role in the Arkansas Tech athletics program.”

“Compassion and support for each other is central to the culture of Arkansas Tech University,” said Abby Davis, Arkansas Tech’s interim director of athletics. “Community service comes naturally to our student-athletes and coaches because that’s who we are as an institution. It never feels like work when we are in a school or elsewhere in the community making a difference. It is just as important to us as winning games and graduating students. If we don’t develop and continuously enhance a culture of service above self, then we are falling short of our responsibility to produce the leaders of tomorrow for our state, our region and our world.”

Western Connecticut State men’s basketball members spend time with residents at a nursing home as part of the university’s Day of Service. Credit: Western Connecticut State University photo

The Division III award went to student-athletes at Western Connecticut State. During the challenge, the school had 430 student-athletes participate in outreach, logging 2,898 hours, with 1,697 of the hours coming from the campuswide initiative “WCSU Day of Service,” where student-athletes participated in events throughout the Danbury community. They also participated in other activities throughout the challenge, including youth clinics and A Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

“Community service means so much more than just fulfilling hours. By giving back, we help to spread the necessary love to make the community and world a better place,” said Jessica Davis, a senior women’s basketball player at WCSU. “In our case, the opportunity to give back to the Greater Danbury community that supports us is the greatest benefit of our service and an important part of being a WestConn student-athlete. All in all, the process is very easy: donate some time and have an impact —nothing else we do is more rewarding.”

“Community service has always been a central pillar of the athletic experience at Western Connecticut State,” said Lori Mazza, director of athletics and recreational sport. “We are supported each day by the campus and surrounding communities, and giving back through service is one way we can express our gratitude. Our teams have contributed over 2,800 hours of service so far this academic year, and that number continues to grow. Though we certainly don’t engage in service activities for the recognition, finishing at the top of the NCAA Team Works Challenge is a testament to the commitment our teams have made to give back and support the community. Helper Helper has allowed us to truly see the impact we are making as a department within the Greater Danbury area.”

Finishing behind Louisville in the Division I competition were New Orleans and Towson. Division II second- and third-place finishers were the Colorado-Colorado Springs and Georgia Southwestern, respectively. Alma College and Albion College rounded out the Division III second- and third-place spots.

“NCAA student-athletes give back to the communities that support them on a regular basis, so we welcome the opportunity to honor them with the NCAA Team Works Community Service award powered by Helper Helper,” said Victor Hill, associate director of Team Works. “In addition to earning a degree and having the privilege to compete at a national level, we see that doing community service also contributes to the overall student-athlete experience in a positive way.”

The student-athletes at Louisville, Arkansas Tech and Western Connecticut will receive their awards this spring on campus. This is the sixth NCAA Team Works Community Service Competition powered by Helper Helper. In all, student-athletes combined this year to log more than 255,603 hours of community service on the Helper Helper system. This year’s total numbers showed a 31% increase in student-athlete hours served and included a total of 10,000 volunteer opportunities with local organizations.