It’s my third season with the Tar Heels and I started this season with one main goal - to make these students-athletes better wrestlers and better men. One point I wanted to emphasize this season was serving others and the community. I took an initiative, with the help of our student athlete development resources, to get involved with organizations in Chapel Hill and the surrounding areas. This is something I wish I would have done more when I was a student-athlete at Iowa because as I have learned: your presence can have a huge impact!
I am very proud to say that we did a great job this season! I hope to continue to push our community engagement initiative going forward. A few of the things we have started to implement are reading at schools, discussions with parent/kid groups with All Pro Dads, volunteering at support groups like widowed support groups, and our biggest project was teaming up with the UNC Children’s Hospital.
Our partnership with the Children’s hospital hits close to home for me. When I was 4 years old, I was struck by a car in the city of Chicago. I spent a few weeks at the Children’s Hospital in the city while recovering. My memories from that time are very limited, but I do remember spending time in the play atrium and how I felt when my siblings would come hang out with me. As part of our partnership with the UNC, the team and coaching staff went in small groups to spend the day in the play atrium before each home dual meet. We got to hang out and play with anyone who wanted to or just needed to see a smiling face. It was amazing for us to see how the strength of the children and families. They go to battle every single day just as our men do in the wrestling room. These children are faced with tough and life threatening situations and are so admirably resilient! This also meant even more to me because two weeks into our partnership a very special 2 year old in my extended family was diagnosed with cancer. I love watching videos of her playing around the children’s hospital or being escorted in a wagon around like the VIP she is!
We also implemented a Kid’s Captain in our home dual meets. Which is an idea I got from the Hawkeye football team where we would invite a child associated with the hospital and their family to get a behind the scenes look before the meet and have them walk out with the team prior to the dual. They would then join our captains and the center mat for the coin flip. You could see the joy! With the help of the Tar Heel fans, we raised 5k for the hospital to use to improve the experience for the families and children. Thank you to everyone who donated!
This has been a great season for the Tar Heels on and off the mat, and we look forwarding in improving on our efforts in both areas each year!
Coaches, athletes, parents - here are some easy ways to give back.
- Donate! One of my favorite organizations is UNC Children's Hospital. Here is the direct links! (UNC Children's Hospital) Another fun one on my list is to call a local elementary and pay off past due lunch fees.
- Call a local elementary school or after school program and see if you can share your story about wrestling and why it has made you a better person or have your team spend some 1-on-1 times with the kids!
Two things to leave you with:
1. Always remember to give back to the community that helps build you!
2. Your donated time is just as valuable as your treasure!