Softball Raising Awareness in Iowa City Community

April 1, 2013

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa softball team, which continues to excel on and off the field, spent Monday’s practice time inviting people around Iowa City to its upcoming `Awareness Day’. `Awareness Day’ will take place Saturday at Pearl Field when the Hawkeyes host Nebraska at 5 p.m. in game two of a three-game set.

“Being a student-athlete is a privilege, and with that comes responsibility,” said UI head coach Marla Looper. “Part of that is our opportunity to reach out to our community. We want to make sure that we are not just champions on the field and in the classroom, but in the community as well.”

Earlier this season, the team visited America’s Wounded Warriors at the Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. The Hawkeyes sponsored a collection drive from Feb. 27 to March 6 and delivered the goods in person.

During the year, the team has also been working with different organizations in the Iowa City community.

“We wanted to come up with a way to give back throughout the community,” said assistant coach Adrianna Baggetta. “We split the team into groups and each one chose what cause or organization they wanted to partner with. The players then did the work, contacting the organizations and volunteering with them throughout the fall and spring.

“There are so many organizations that do great things that fly below the radar, and we wanted to try and bring awareness to these groups. The organizations have been tremendous with our kids and we hope that we can help them out and bring awareness to each one on Saturday.”

The team has been working with eight organizations.

“The team has split up into groups and picked an organization that they had some connection with or an interest in,” said senior Sam Valentine. “My group is bringing awareness to Autism.”

“We have been going to different organizations for community service throughout the year,” said senior Chelsea Lyon. “Our team is very well-rounded, helping out in the community. It is really special. It shows the community that we want to help.

“We each have different areas. I have been working with the Iowa City Animal Shelter for the last few years. It is great to bring awareness to them.”

Two to three student-athletes worked with a respective organization. Lyon, Megan Blank and Sammi Gyerman teamed up to work with the Iowa City Animal Shelter, while Valentine and Shayla Starkenburg worked to bring awareness to Autism.

Kayla Massey and Holly Hoffman, one of Iowa’s pitcher-catcher duos, have been working with the Veteran’s Hospital. Wall, Nikki Gentile and Whitney Repole teamed up to support Miracles in Motion.

Johnnie Dowling, Steviee Grove and Micaela Whitney have been working with the Ronald McDonald House, and Mallorree Grove, Brianna Luna and Haley Hansel worked with Iowa City Hospice.

Ashley Akers, Brittanee Grove and Krystal Shirrell worked with The Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP), and Michelle Zoeller, Tor Hawley and Erin Erickson supported the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

It has provided the student-athletes a great opportunity to give back.

“We have been focusing on helping out in the community, because others support us so much,” said senior Bradi Wall. “We have great fans throughout the community and have been focused on giving back.”

“We have a unique outreach, influence and connection within the community,” said Valentine. “To use that in so many different ways is amazing, and I am really happy to be a part of it.”

“I am very proud,” said Looper of her team’s efforts in the community. “It is not easy to branch out and dive into something. We split it up in eight groups and let them choose. We wanted them to find something to be passionate about instead of directing them to one organization.”

“Our players have been outstanding,” said Baggetta. “I am so proud of how passionate they are about their organizations and the work they have done in the community. They have embraced this day and want it to be successful for each organization. They are excited and have been looking forward to the final project for some time.

“I hope this is only the beginning and Awareness Day is an annual event that continues to grow.”