Helping hands

FSU athletes and students offer their time over spring break

With summer rapidly approaching, most college students are counting down the days until they can sleep til noon and lay by the pool for hours.

While time for fun is certainly necessary, how about donating a portion of your summer to something a bit more meaningful than working on your tan? Setting a perfect example were four Bulldog student-athletes who traded in the typical spring break experience for the chance to make a difference in the lives of poverty-stricken Americans.

Women’s soccer players Amanda Foster, Logan DeClerq and Courtney Meharg along with football player Jace Heneveld travelled to Mississippi to help individuals in the state’s second poorest county, Claiborne County.

Foster, a freshman on the women’s soccer team, said she learned a lot from her participation on the mission trip.

“One of the main things [I learned] would probably be that you don’t need to go overseas to be able to do mission work,” Foster said. “There is actually a lot of mission work to be done nearby.”

In Big Rapids, there are many volunteer organizations to choose from including Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Salvation Army, and Women’s Information Service (a domestic violence and adult sexual assault program).

Pastor Mike Wissink, who has worked in campus ministry since 1994, accompanied the four FSU athletes as well as 12 FSU students on the trip to Port Gibson, Miss.

The group was part of the 2011 Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Fellowship of Christian Students Mission Trip.

Associate Athletic Director Jon Coles believes that volunteer efforts by Bulldog athletes are a testament to the character of FSU’s student-athletes.
“No one asked them to do this. They didn’t receive credit, bonus points or a certificate. They did it because it’s the right thing to do,” Coles said. “We have outstanding individuals who represent this institution participating in athletics.”

In an effort to assist Port Gibson residents, Wissink worked with FSU athletes and students to build three wheelchair ramps and one deck.

Athletic Director Perk Weisenburger praised the student-athletes for their participation in the mission trip.

“We rely on a lot of community support. So our student-athletes and our coaches know it’s an obligation for us to give back to the community, whether it is locally or nationally,” Weisenburger said. “I think [volunteer work] speaks to the leadership of our coaches, our university and certainly the young men and women that we have in our program.”

Foster enjoyed the experience so much she is already looking forward to returning to Port Gibson in the future.

“I loved the experience and I am planning on going again next year,” Foster said. “It is so rewarding to see your hard work help others.” n