The National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators has recognized the Ohio Wesleyan athletics department not for its performance on the field or court, but for dedication and service to the community.
Ohio Wesleyan won two Jostens/NADIIIAA Awards of Merit for Community Service.
The women’s lacrosse team was honored in the one-time project category for its Friends of Jaclyn 5-kilometer race and the men’s basketball team was recognized in the ongoing activity category for its community project with local schools. OWU was one of only three NCAA Division III institutions to win more than one award.
The men’s basketball team’s project is designed to be a mentoring program that targets fifth- and sixth-graders in Delaware. Specifically, the team pairs up with Willis Middle School and the Big Brothers organization. The men visit the school weekly and tutor students. The program was started by assistant coach Marcus Gill.
Head coach Mike DeWitt isn’t focused on winning the award as much as the other rewards earned from taking part in the program. “We didn’t begin this program to win awards or get publicity. We began the program to teach our student-athletes the value of giving back to their community and to hopefully positively affect the lives of some at-risk kids,” he says.
As for the women’s lacrosse team, the players organized and held the Friends of Jaclyn 5k race last fall.
“They decided to do the 5K because of their passion for the Friends of Jaclyn foundation and wanting to give back to it” says head coach Julie Duffy.
Originally the team adopted a young girl, Violet, who suffered from pediatric brain cancer and became a true part of their team. Recently, the team has been coping with the loss of Violet. But with the team’s involvement with the FOJ foundation and Violet, the team members have grown much closer.
Duffy is proud of her team. “Having my team win an award for a non-athletic accomplishment is just as good, maybe a little better, than them winning a conference championship. Sometimes as coaches we focus only on winning on the field. My team understands that through sports you can do so much more,” says Duffy.
Athletics director Roger Ingles feels the awards make a statement about the Ohio Wesleyan athletics community.
“It says we have a dedicated, caring athletics staff and group of student-athletes who care about their local community and want to give back. I think having a department that is committed to something other than themselves is what Ohio Wesleyan is all about. It helps build a family atmosphere and a warm and caring environment,” says Ingles.