“Never let anything dull your sparkle”: Volleyball team makes volunteering a priority

Story by Ellis Williams, Freelancer

The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference women’s volleyball teams have raised over $100,000 for Breast Cancer Awareness over the past five years. According to UW-Eau Claire Athletic Director Scott Kilgallon, the UW-Eau Claire squad has done a great job raising thousands of dollars for breast cancer research.

Head Coach Kim Wudi said she makes a concerted effort to make volunteering an important part of the team, and her players have responded.

“As a coach I try to incorporate volunteering into what we do as a team, and not view volunteering as something extra,” Wudi said. “It is part of our program’s culture to give back to the community.”

Wudi said their most successful volunteer work has been the breast cancer awareness event that takes place during the fall, which takes careful planning to come together.

“I do much of the planning for the breast cancer awareness event in the spring and summer, but come fall time when the event is about to get under way, my players do a wonderful job at getting involved,” Wudi said.

One of those players is Junior Lauren Sutherland. Sutherland said though there is a lot going on both in and out of season, they are good at prioritizing their time.

“Coach Wudi is great at organizing events and keeping us up to date on everything that is going on,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland also said volunteering teaches her and her teammates many valuable lessons that can be applied both on the court and in the community.

“The volunteer work that we do has taught us to give our all for everyone else on the court, not just ourselves,” Sutherland said. “I believe that is why we are so successful.”

The Blugolds finished last season with a record of 26-12, and tied for second place in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season standings. They also won the WIAC championship, which granted them an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, where their season ended in the second round.

Coach Wudi said her team’s success this year came partially from the lessons volunteer work had taught them.

“A quality team is always the goal, but just as important is to develop student athletes with high character,” Wudi said. “We want to instill the concept that we cannot accomplish anything as individuals, because we must come together as a team.”

Freshman Libero Juliana Burzynski said she valued the experience of coming together as a team through volunteer work because she personally has been impacted by the efforts of volunteer work.

Burzynski’s 10-year-old niece was diagnosed with Medullablastoma, a type of brain cancer. The Blugold women’s volleyball team decided to put on a skills camp to help raise money for the Burzynski’s niece.

“For my teammates to wake up early in the morning and come help raise money for my niece was incredible,” Burzynski said. “She was so thrilled that college volleyball players were honoring her the way they did. “

Burzynski’s niece has developed a quote that has inspired many people in her fight against cancer: “Never let anything dull your sparkle.” Burzynski said her niece has inspired her and her teammates to do what they can to help people.

“She is an inspiration to my teammates, and I to give back to people who are in need,” Burzynski said. “Her quote says it all and she is our inspiration to push through the tough times we may face.”