Awareness Day Primer: Big Brothers Big Sisters

April 2, 2016

IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa softball seniors Whitney Repole and Haley Hansel play big roles both on and off the field.


Each year the UI softball team challenges its student-athletes to find an organization in the Iowa City community they are passionate about. Repole and Hansel found just that three years ago with Johnson County’s Big Brothers Big Sisters.

On April 23, the Hawkeyes will honor Big Brothers Big Sisters and six other organizations the team volunteers with at their annual Awareness Day at Bob Pearl Field. A representative from each program will throw out the first pitch before the Hawkeyes take on Big Ten foe Penn State.

Recently, Repole opened up about what it means to be a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson County.

Can you talk about Big Brothers Big Sisters and the purpose it serves?

“Our goal with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Johnson County is to connect with students that come from homes that are not ideal and family situations that are tough or strenuous on the student. We just go and hang out with students, encourage them, and get to know them a little bit. Our hour a week serves as a safe place for them.”

What is your weekly role in the program?

“Every week, I meet with my buddy. She’s in sixth grade, and I’ve been meeting with her for 18 months now. We hang out, I help her with her homework, and recently we’ve been practicing her pitching for Awareness Day. That has been pretty exciting. I’m just there as a mentor and a friend to her.”

What does it mean for the University of Iowa softball team to get involved and give back to the community?

“As student-athletes we have a unique platform, especially within the Iowa City community because it’s so close-knit. It’s something every student-athlete should take advantage of. The opportunity to help is always an important thing, and it helps put our whole sporting experience in perspective. The trials we face on the field are not part of the big picture. There are people that could really use our help.”

What’s it like to volunteer alongside of your teammates?

“It’s cool. Haley (Hansel) and I have been working with this organization for three years. We did one year of understudy work, and we’ve had our buddies for two years now. It has been cool. I know it’s something that Haley enjoys. She’s good at mentoring her buddy, and she’s basically the paradigm of community service. It’s been good to have her as a model.”

What do you find most valuable or rewarding about being involved with BBBS?

“Seeing the change in the relationship with my buddy and I has been rewarding. At first she was a little standoffish and a little reserved, and now she has come into her own as this loud, boisterous, really fun person. I’m happy to be a part of that, I enjoy it.”

What did your most recent experience with your little include?

“A lot of times, she tries to teach me how to dance. She loves Beyonce. Our thing is playing UNO. We keep track of how many games we’ve won. Right now she’s beating me, 31-20, this semester. We will see if I can make a comeback.”

What purpose does Awareness Day serve?

“Awareness Day is something unique and special to Iowa softball. It gives us an opportunity to enrich our community that we play in and represent. Awareness Day is something special and something cool that we can do to enhance our own environment.”

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