Student-athletes bridge the gap between campus, community

Volunteering their time proves to be a rewarding experience



Softball team members volunteered at the Special Olympics Bowling Tournament, hosted in the Hilltop Center last fall.

Story by Meghan Hosely, Online Editor

Kelsey Meredith, a sophomore member of the Blugold softball team, was at the Community Table with the rest of her teammates one day last fall, and left wondering what she could do next.

“I was like ‘I have to do more,’” Meredith said. “I can’t just stop here. I don’t understand how people can go home from that and not be hungry for more.”

Meredith said she splits her time between school, practice and volunteering. She’s organized her team to volunteer at the Community Table, 320 Putnam St., a few times throughout the year and is involved with Special Olympics and Sojourner House along with other events throughout the year.


For the most part, Meredith said almost everyone on her team is involved in giving time back to their community. Meredith and her team is also looking to be a part of Team Impact, a local Christian charity,  within the next year.

Director of Athletics Dan Schumacher said the softball players aren’t the only student-athletes on campus volunteering their time. Every other varsity sport on campus gives their time in some way or another.

“You’re privileged to play athletics, and you need to recognize it,” he said. “It’s important to give back to the community, your school, and the youth. Your youth is where it started, so it’s important to give back to them.”

Head cross country coach Dan Schwamberger said for the past seven years, his teams have found local charity runs to volunteer their time to. For many, the team volunteered for The Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis, which was on Putnam Trail.

Last fall, however, the cross country team offered their services to the Haunted Hustle, to which the proceeds went to the Bolton Refuge House.

Schwamberger said when the team attends races to volunteer at, they’re mostly responsible for setting up and taking down the course, registration and serving as course marshals.

The cross country team is also partnering up with the track & field team and the football team on May 3 at the Eau Claire Marathon. The three teams have a water station in the course, where they’ll hand out cups of water to the runners and cheer them on.

Schwamberger said his squad is almost always willing to dedicate time to charity runs, even if the runs take place on their rare weekends off.

It’s important for athletes to give their time to the community they play for, Schumacher said.

“I think (the athletes) enjoy (volunteering),” he said. “They’re practicing everyday, they’re gone on the weekends. They have very few Saturdays where they’re not doing anything, and I ask them … and I have three quarters of the team volunteer.”

Meredith said once she arrived on campus as a student athlete, she wasn’t expecting to volunteer with her teammates “just because.” When she was in high school, charitable acts were usually a fundraiser for the team.

Through the time and effort Meredith has given to others in the past two years as a Blugold athlete, she said it’s created a bond with her teammates and changed her way of thinking.

Meredith said she’s found herself asking questions about what she can do for others, and what community changes she can develop in Eau Claire.

“We’re an important part of Eau Claire’s community and the socio-economic flow so it doesn’t work if all we do is take from the community,” she said. “Giving back to the community that gives us taxes that pay for our fields … it’s very important to give back to them.”