DIII: Student Athletes Giving Back

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California Lutheran University participated in the fourth annual Division III week from April 6-12. The focus this year was to promote Cal Lutheran athletes’ dedication to charity and community service.

Students were given the opportunity to join the Be the Match national registry which looks for bone marrow or stem cell matches for patients with blood cancers. Students were also offered the opportunity to write a letter to a child with cancer.

According to NCAA.com, DIII week celebrates the impact of student athletes. It demonstrates their ongoing dedication to not only their respective sports but their academic achievements and community service. During the week, DIII schools are encouraged to choose one of the following types of outreach activity to conduct on campus: academics, experience or community involvement.

This year the Student Athlete Advisory Committee Vice President Jack McFarland took leadership of what was presented on campus during DIII week and decided to focus on community outreach. 

“Athletes are usually very humble. Being able to show off our accomplishments and how we better the community is very important. We want to show that we are good people and have a lot to offer,” McFarland said.

Tuesday through Saturday, student athletes were at the flagpole from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. for registering donors and signing cards.

Assistant Athletic Director and adviser to SAAC Debby Day said in an email interview that choosing bone marrow donation for community outreach was an easy choice for McFarland.

“McFarland is a strong advocate of the bone marrow registry, and that creating cards for pediatric cancer patients seemed like a perfect match,” Day said.

Brooklyn Elder represented the Be the Match organization on campus and is also a Cal Lutheran alumnus from the class of 2013. The idea to incorporate Be the Match with DIII week began because Elder’s cousin plays football for Cal Lutheran, and Elder wanted to incorporate the team with helping the community. She organized an athletes saving lives campaign in January 2015, and this is where she met McFarland. He suggested they plan something like saving lives for DIII week.

“Jack planned everything. He was so encouraging and said that we were going to save our patient’s lives. We’ve gotten support from all the athletic teams and we’re very excited,” Elder said. 

Elder said anyone who is nervous about signing up for Be the Match registry should not worry, as there is a very small chance a person can be matched, but you could save a life.

She said that in order to match someone they look at their ethnicity. Actually collecting the marrow or stem cells from the donor is done two ways. The first is  through a new peripheral blood stem cell donation which is similar to donating blood. PBSC separates stem cells from blood and is able to give cancer patients those healthy stem cells collected. The second method collects bone marrow through a surgical procedure that removes marrow from the hip.

Students walking past the Cal Lutheran flag pole were greeted by volunteer athletes who helped  sign up participants and passed out cards to sign. Two of these volunteers were freshman tennis player Annette Sousa and freshman softball player Tamara Singh.

“We’re all student athletes volunteering today. We all volunteered wanting to not only do something for the school but something positive for children with cancer,” Singh said.

Sousa said the goal for bone marrow sign ups was as many participants as possible, but they hope to have so many cards their supplies will run out. Elder said by April 9 they had over 300 cards to send to various hospitals Be the Match works with.

Cal Lutheran gave incentive for individuals to sign up for the registry by giving donors collapsible water bottles.

McFarland said he hopes students will recognize the effort and time athletes put into improving not only the Cal Lutheran campus but their communities as a whole.

Mary Callaway
Staff Writer
Published April 15th, 2015