Nov. 3, 2015
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By MEGAN ROWLEY
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa women’s gymnastics team spent Halloween weekend dishing out a few tricks and plenty of treats for the Hallow-Ridge Halloween event at the Pheasant Ridge Community Center.
“We do this every year,” said head coach Larissa Libby. “They really enjoy interacting with the community, especially when it comes to entertaining children. This is something that we have done in groups or as a full team. However we can get there, they always want to do this event.”
Pheasant Ridge is a diverse community of both UI students and Iowa City families. The community serves a large number of immigrant families living in the neighborhood — primarily families from the Sudan and Jordan.
“Being able to volunteer at events like this is such a valuable opportunity for my team and I,” said senior Alie Glover. “We get the chance to have a hands-on experience with the families that make up the community we are a part of.”
The community offers many programs including full-day child development programs, mentoring, tutoring, health and wellness programs, and pre-employment programs.
“Volunteering opens our eyes to how much our help is appreciated by programs like the Pheasant Ridge Community Center,” said Glover. “Above everything, we’re lucky to be able to participate in events that allow us to give back to this incredible community.”
During the event the GymHawks split up into different groups, with one group helping children with arts and crafts while others played kickball. The rest of the team ventured through the haunted house with the kids, only to find — and be scared by — some familiar GymHawk faces disguised in costumes.
“Sometimes they make the haunted house too scary, so they have to hold the kids hands all the way through,” said Libby. “It is something they love to do and it is something that is important to them. I think the impact goes both ways.”
While the event only happens once a year, the connections made transcend the Halloween weekend.
“Some of the kids will come to our meets and remember our athletes helping them make a ghost or leading them through the haunted house,” said Libby. “Those are moments that keep them going back. When one child comes out of the crowd and remembers the two minutes you spent with them, it makes the experience special.
“With the things we do, we have the opportunity to make a connection with the kids and their families. A lot of the parents follow us on Facebook, come to our meets, send us letters and show their support. It has been good for both of us.”