Football Team Begins Camp By Giving Back to the Community
BEREA, OHIO -- Baldwin Wallace University Head Football Coach John Snell is a firm believer that community service builds character. He believes it so much that it is the first things that he asks his team to do at the beginning of each season. Community Service is the cornerstone of his success.
When Snell's Yellow Jacket squad of 195 student-athletes reported to preseason camp on Wednesday, August 15 in Berea, each student-athlete brought with him a shoe box filled with school supplies for needy children. This is the 11th straight year that Snell's team has supported his "School Supplies for Needy Children" initiative. It is one of at least two annual community service projects for his program. In addition to "Professor Appreciation Day", the football team joins with Yellow Jacket Student-Athlete Services on other projects that involve the entire student-athlete population of the University and the communities of Berea, Brook Park, Middleburg Heights and others.
"We were overwhelmed," said Snell of the amount of school supplies that were collected. "This is not a knock on the great work that all of our previous teams produced for this effort, but this was phenomenal. It was easily the most we have collected in the 11 years that we have been doing this project. It was just outstanding."
Snell tells his players why it is important right from the start.
"It is important that the first day that we give back," Snell tells his student-athletes and the parents, coaches and other family members in the crowd of about 600 people who attended the team's Family Picnic. "It is important that we give back to those who a bit or more less fortunate than we are. It is important to be involved in community service from day one.
"Each young man in our program is fortunate to be able to attend college," said Snell. "We want our student-athletes to help others. We want them to realize sacrifice and how we can help others in the classroom, off the field and on the field. I think our student-athletes have grown to enjoy the programs and the interaction with others who may be less fortunate than themselves."
This year, Snell again chose Berea's Church Street Ministry to receive the school supplies. In past years, Snell's program has benefitted such groups as Cleveland's "Shoes and Clothes for Kids", the Cleveland Clinic Foundation's Taussig Cancer Center and Strongsville's "Rainbow Quilters". Church Street Ministry Director Frannie Milward, Jeff Jackson and representatives of her group were on-hand to accept the school supplies.
"This is just wonderful," said Milward, who was beaming with a BIG smile. "I just want to thank Coach Snell and his young men for their charity and generosity. The school supplies will go a long way toward helping many young people in our area begin school the right way and with a fighting chance to learn.
"These young children will go to school on the first day not wanting or needing of materials that will help them get a good education," continued Milward. "They will not be embarrassed by not having the proper supplies. It will raise their self-esteem and in turn will give them a better chance to learn. So, on behalf of Church Street Ministry and the young people who will receive these supplies, I thank you with all of my heart."
Then Milward explained what the school supplies meant to the children. As part of Snell's idea of community service, each student-athlete writes a letter to the child who will receive the school supplies.
Milward said, "I just want to let you know that the messages that you young men write to these children have a profound affect. They read the notes and letters. They ask questions. Your messages motivate these young children. It means so much to them. Again, thank you."
During its season a few years ago, BW football student-athletes participated in a "Tackle Cancer" program. The "Tackle Cancer" program involved the members of the football team selling 200 t-shirts for $10.00 each with the BW Football Tackle Cancer logo emblazened on each shirt. The profit from the sales of those t-shirts benefitted the CCF's Taussig Cancer Center. The "Rainbow Quilters" of Strongsville, a group that makes afghans for cancer patients at Taussig, and a number of local grade schools where BW student-athletes read and work with children each year.
"Our young men have been given a great gift of the talent and ability to be able to participate," said Snell. "But to become leaders, both in the classroom and on the field, they need to think about others and how to become better team players. Giving is a great way to help others and bring us closer together as a team and family. And, it just makes a lot of sense to simply give back to our community. We are more than happy to do so."
Two other annual community service projects for the football team are its annual Al Koran Temple/ Shriners' Day football game and its Professor Appreciation Day.
This season's "Shriners' Day" game is on Saturday, September 29 when the Yellow Jackets host Otterbein University at 1:30 p.m. at Finnie Stadium. Partial gate proceeds from that day go to benefit the Shrine's philanthophy of helping children who have suffered severe burns.
The Shriners' Day game is in its 35th season and was started by the late and legendary College Football Hall of Famer Lee Tressel '48, who served as BW's football coach and athletics director from 1957-80 and was a Shriner himself. The late and legendary Bob Packard '65, who preceeded Snell as head coach, also enjoyed the Shrine Day activities.
This season's "Professor Appreciation Day" game is scheduled for October 27 when the Yellow Jackets host Marietta College at Finnie Stadium. Prior to the game, each BW senior football student-athlete presents a member of the College faculty with a framed cover of that day's game program with a special message. The message thanks the faculty member for making a difference in the life of the student-athlete while at the University.
"It is important for our young men to thank our faculty, and especially those members of the faculty who go out of their way to make the student-athlete experience special," said Snell. "We have an outstanding, engaged faculty at this University. They are interested in helping our students do their best both in and out of the classroom. It only makes sense that we thank them for their efforts. It is just another reason that Baldwin Wallace University is a very special place."
Snell ideas about community never end. Next summer, he plans to extend an invitation to both the BW campus and the community of Berea to help participate in the "School Supplies for Children" initiative.
"Based on what I saw at the last two year's of the BW Christmas Luncheon (the University collected donations of food and money for the Cleveland Food Bank), I know the BW community is a very giving, caring and compassionate. I'm also sure the Berea community, which also has displayed a great deal of care and compassion, would be open tothe idea of joining our efforts," said Snell. "And, if we can help more young children realize their dream of getting a good, quality education, then I am all for it."
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