By Julianne Bartosz
Across Saint Mary’s University campus, over 320 student-athletes can be found striving for excellence every day of the week in their sport or in the classroom.
But when the time comes for them to take off their jerseys, they are often found stepping out of their own bounds and into the community. Instead of sticking to the sports that they know best, the Cardinals have started a winning tradition by completing different volunteer and service projects throughout the year.
Volunteering in the community has become a nationally recognized characteristic of the Cardinals twice in the past three years.
The National Association of Division III Athletics Administration (NADIIIAA), recently awarded SMU with honorable mention for community service projects for the previous academic year. The Cardinals earned this honor through activities like raising money for charitable organizations, volunteering in the Winona community and helping peers across campus.
Although this honor was for last year’s volunteering, the Cardinals continue to help the community through events like “Give Back Weekend,” which includes the volleyball team’s second “Dig Pink Night” for breast cancer awareness, the men’s soccer “Cardinals Kick Cancer” for the Children’s Hospital and the women’s soccer “Footin’ 4 Food” drive for Winona’s food pantry. Also, the men’s hockey team started a new tradition this year with its first “Toys for Tots’ Teddy Bear Toss.”
Aside from incorporating a good cause with their game days, the Cardinals have also spent some free time volunteering this year. Cardinal athletic teams volunteered during SMU’s annual “Make a Difference Day.”
During the third year of this event, the women’s hockey team assisted Habitat for Humanity, the men’s hockey team volunteered at a local elementary school and the softball team helped with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization.
Some Cardinals are already planning ahead for upcoming service opportunities. On March 18, SMU will be hosting a Relay for Life event. Enthusiastic to help fight cancer, the Cardinals’ volleyball team and women’s hockey team are already signed up to participate.
According to Athletic Director Nikki Fennern, the Cardinals put in all of this extra time and effort to simply make a difference, rather than for recognition.
“Yes, the student-athletes give their time; but I think they are getting a lot out of it as well. Our student-athletes are leaders in many ways on campus. And when you take a group of student-athletes who are a bunch of motivated people anyway, then they see a need or a cause that they are very interested in. They tend to be motivated to pick up their volunteer activities and do those things as well,” said Fennern.