Volunteerism important to RDC student-athletes
The life of a Red Deer College student-athlete is busy with the pursuit of academic and athletic excellence, but with exams and a break in the athletic schedule it’s a great time to reflect on how the student-athletes give back to their community. The athletes’ contributions in sport are often recognized, but their year-long impact and involvement in central Alberta often flies under the radar.
The schools and organizations that the RDC student-athletes are involved with are wide spread. Coaching youth and Special Olympics, wrapping Christmas presents to help raise funds for the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter, reading with elementary school children, encouraging students to stay active, helping academically, mentoring and creating positive experiences for youth are just some of the things that RDC student-athletes are committed to throughout the season.
The RDC Curling teams have prominent representation in the community this season once again. Shayne Copeland and Andrew Jones, Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Curling silver medalists, have been coaching high school curling teams at Hunting Hills and in Ponoka. For the past three years, the Red Deer College Curling teams have volunteered and coached Special Olympics Curling in Red Deer. Their Monday practices started in mid-October and will wrap up in April. RDC Curling Head Coach Brad Hamilton, the 2016 - 17 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Women’s Curling Coach of the Year, views it as a positive experience for both parties. “We chose Special Olympics Curling because of the need for coaches and the positive effect it can have on the appreciative Special Olympians,” said Hamilton. “Volunteering is such a growth opportunity for our student-athletes as well.”
Chloe Logelin, a Bachelor of Science Nursing student on the RDC Mixed Curling team, sees the importance of volunteering. “The RDC Curling teams wanted to find a way to give back to the community and thank them for their support,” said Logelin, a winner of an ACAC silver medal in 2016 - 17. “It is my third year helping out with this organization and I’ve seen these athletes really grow, sharing their personalities and developing their curling skills.”
Another example of student-athlete volunteerism has happened this December. Even with a busy month of exams, the Volleyball Queens have made time to volunteer wrapping presents at Bower Mall to help raise money for the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter. The Emergency Shelter offers counseling, support and a safe place for families during times of domestic violence.
On November 25, when the RDC Queens Volleyball team won at home over the SAIT Trojans, more excitement was created off the court for 12-year-old McKinley Penninga. McKinley, who was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, was celebrating her birthday at the Queens game with her family and friends, and was touched by the gestures of the RDC team that went above expectations.
McKinley’s father, Martin Penninga, was impressed with how special the Queens made his daughter’s evening. “McKinley is normally a little shy but she loved being in the presence of the college players. Her birthday was announced at the game and she was invited to meet the Queens,” said Penninga. “The players shared when they started playing volleyball as young girls. McKinley brought a volleyball to get signed and she had a group picture taken with the team. It was satisfying to see McKinley so happy because she has experienced so much physical pain and disappointment with her disease. We all reveled in seeing her dream about playing volleyball at that level one day.”
Throughout the fall term, Kings Hockey goaltender Mike Salmon along with other student-athletes, have been busy with several initiatives at area schools. At Maryview Elementary School, Salmon, along with Queens Hockey defender Cassidy Anderson and Queens Volleyball middle blocker Megan Schmidt, joined the students for Halloween and other group activities. At Iron Ridge Junior Campus in Blackfalds, Salmon, Anderson and Schmidt were joined by Adam Turlejski, a CCAA Men’s Volleyball gold medal winner, to speak on the importance of literacy. The RDC student-athletes also modeled the importance of physical activity by playing soccer and volleyball with the students. At G.W. Smith Elementary School, Salmon was joined by business student, Eli Falls, and they assisted children with reading, writing and math skills. The RDC students led soccer games and showed the children the importance of keeping active through the BOKS (Build Our Kids’ Success) program. BOKS is designed to give the body and brain a boost through morning exercise that will help prepare the students for a productive day of learning.
From a big-picture perspective, the Red Deer College Student Athletic Advisory Council is a huge proponent of volunteering. Andrew Jones, from Ponoka, recognizes that the ability to be involved in the community is made easier through scholarships and the upcoming Scholarship Breakfast. “The scholarships I have received allow me to fully commit myself to my studies and curling, while freeing up time for me to give back to the community,” said Jones.
As the calendar turns to January, the RDC student-athletes will maintain a strong presence in central Alberta communities with speeches, coaching, mentoring, reading, promoting physical activity and raising money for charities. In 2018, other events such as the Polar Plunge are being planned by the Queens Hockey team in an effort to raise awareness and funds for Special Olympics Alberta.
For more information on RDC Athletics, including details about student-athletes, sports and schedules please visit rdcathletics.ca.
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