The University of Mary Washington basketball game didn’t start until the afternoon, but by 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 14, the action at the Anderson Center had already started. The basketball stadium was filled with shouts of laughter, as children and college students alike raced up and down the court in relay races, shooting basketballs and giving out high fives.
A grant has partnered UMW Athletics and UMW Center for Honor, Leadership and Service with Stafford Junction, a nonprofit, faith-based enrichment program that works to empower children and their families residing in Stafford County. The grant provides youth from Stafford Junction the opportunity to visit and interact with UMW student athletes to engage in physical activity and skill building.
“We are thrilled and feel blessed to be partnered with the University,” said Gladys Castellanos, Stafford Junction program director. “We are always happy to see that the kids enjoy their time there.”
Each month during the school year, children from Stafford Junction visit a different UMW sports team and spent time with student athletes, experiencing some of college life and learning about staying active and healthy.
On Saturday, the men’s and women’s basketball teams visited with Stafford Junction before a game against Penn State Harrisburg. The children saw how the team prepares for the game and discovered what it’s like being a student athlete.
“The kids look up to them, and they send a positive message to kids in the community,” said Philip Pierce, director of athletic development and promotions. “It makes you feel like sports aren’t just about wins and losses. Student athletes have the ability to change lives and put smiles on kids’ faces”
So far, Stafford Junction has met with the UMW swimming, soccer, baseball and basketball teams.
“At UMW we pride ourselves on being a Fredericksburg team. It’s always nice to give back to the community.” said Senior Biology Major Claire Haeuptle, as she takes a break from leading a dribbling game. “It shows the kids we take pride in not only our athletics, but also our academics.”
Before the big game started, Head Men’s Basketball Coach Marcus Kahn sat the team and kids down together for a pre-game pep talk.
“Don’t ever let anybody else tell you what you can or cannot do,” said Kahn, encouraging the kids to take lessons they learned back to their schools, friends and communities. “Stay active, confident and positive every day. Don’t let people put boundaries on you.”