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    A Dodgeball Tournament Giving Hope (and Fun!)

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    By Katie Landgrebe - Northwestern Women's Soccer

    Katie Landgrebe is a sophomore on the Northwestern women's soccer team and the journalism major will give fans an inside look into the program with her blogs. The Northwestern women's soccer team is constantly giving back to the community and Katie's second entry details a great service event put on by the seniors from the 2012 women's soccer team.

    PHOTOS: 2013 Charity Dodgeball Tournament

    Colorful outfits, the sound of competition-crazed players, and balls whizzing through the air could only mean one thing: a dodgeball tournament, and more importantly, one put on by the women's soccer team. On a hot May day, more than 100 people packed into Patten Gym to participate in a tournament organized, run and inspired by our senior class. I can't begin to say how much Jess Rubin, Meredith Finsand and Bri Westlund have meant to me as teammates in the past two years, but in the past few weeks I've seen another, even better side of them. 
    They built this tournament from the ground up, and put a great cause at the center of it. The Lurie Children's Hospital is a place near and dear to NU women's soccer because of the incredible care they have given to our friend Hallie Munro, so it was only natural that the proceeds of this tournament would benefit their organization. With each team paying an entrance fee and many local businesses donating food for players, our seniors, and team, were able to raise $3,000 for a place that we know does good work for children with unimaginable circumstances; and all while having a great time!
    Observing the three dodgeball courts that lined Patten Gym was truly a sight to see, and many of us stuck around to watch and enjoy the fun atmosphere long after our refereeing shifts ended. Teams, many of which consisted of other NU student-athletes, sprinted to lines, performed trick plays and generally made the most of the chance to participate in a game outside of our normal practice schedules. Working alongside the seniors that had made all of this happen was an honor, and I couldn't help but smile at the thought of that money going to a place where daily, kids can have hope of a second chance because of the world-class care they receive.
    Something else that stuck with me was from an email Coach Moynihan sent to our team after some of us volunteered at Nettelhorst Elementary playing soccer and telling students about our experience as NU student-athletes. He pointed out that we were showing kids another avenue, one where you can excel at a sport and also love to do creative writing or use a talent you have to achieve something else, like being the first in your family to attend college. In a way, we were doing the same with the dodgeball tournament. Showing outsiders and ourselves that college athletes aren't just performers on the field and in the classroom, but also conscientious members of the community. In a packed gym filled with the sounds of our friends simply having a good time, our team, with the help of our senior class, learned that fun and service can collide in incredible ways.
    Coach Neely captured some great moments from the dodgeball tournament so make sure you check out the photo gallery. A big thanks to everyone who participated and helped to make the day memorable!

    Fuel Up to Play 60 with Reggie Hearn

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    By Jocelyn Vinoya Serranilla



    Reggie Hearn must have anticipated the crowd's reaction to his bold declaration on his eating habits growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Hearn, who has been fearless in adversity on the basketball court, finishing last season as the leading scorer on the Wildcats' men's basketball team, brought the same bold and fearless demeanor at River Trails Middle School when he challenged his audience to eat right, get enough sleep and stay active. 


    "I'm like a lot of you, guys. My mom always taught me to eat Brussels sprouts and all those green vegetables," Hearn declared. The crowd erupted, "Awwww! Brussels sprouts!"


    Unabashed by the uproar, Hearn continued to press his case for a healthy lifestyle to the sixth, seventh and eighth graders who have packed the school gym in suburban Mt. Prospect on Friday, April 12. "Yeah! I was like, "Uh! Brussels sprouts!" He said he reacted the same way when his mom used to feed him veggies but admitted "those green vegetables really helped me. I've been eating right and that helped me become the player that I am today."


    His transformation from a walk-on his freshman year to starter and scholarship player his junior year, Hearn acknowledged his success as a collective effort. "There are a lot of people who remind me to eat right. We have a nutritionist at Northwestern who is helping me out, reminding me to eat my vegetables, to eat breakfast. Sometimes I just want to eat ice cream, but that's not good for me as an athlete." Hearn also reminded the kids to get enough sleep as part of their health regimen. "That's going to help you stay healthy in the long run."


    Hearn's visit kicked off a morning assembly at the suburban middle school where students and teachers danced, hula-hooped, jumped rope, played volleyball and basketball, ate fresh green salads and participated in games geared towards creating awareness to a healthy lifestyle. It was a day dedicated to Fuel Up to Play 60, a nationwide program sponsored by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League to help prevent childhood obesity, encouraging participants to make healthy food choices, to stay active and exercise for at least 60 minutes a day.  


    Hearn's bubbly personality won over his audience and by the time he announced, "I think I'm sticking around for a while, so let's fuel up to play 60," most kids, both boys and girls have milled around him, jumping to high-five the Wildcats' recipient of the Big Ten's Sportsmanship Award for 2012-13, and asking him questions mostly about how tall he was and who his favorite NBA player was.  Hearn's 6-foot-4-inch, 210-pound frame was all the middle school students needed as proof that eating vegetables must really work.


    From the general assembly, the students broke up in smaller stations in various classrooms, which Hearn each visited.  He gave them a glimpse of how much he enjoyed his fruits and vegetables at the school cafeteria where he munched on chopped broccoli, spinach, lettuce, apples, tomatoes and onions as students stood in line with pens and papers asking for his autograph.  The nutritionist sensed his magical effect on the kids. "Ask them to eat butternut squash," she whispered while handing him a cup of chopped salad.  Hearn obliged to the nutritionist's request, at which point he turned to his captive audience, "eat butternut squash and I'll give you my autograph."  All the kids were undeterred by the trade-off challenge of butternut-squash-for-Reggie Hearn-autograph. No one left the line.


    All morning at RTMS, Hearn not only declared, "I'm excited to be here," but showed it in everything he did with the kids. He sashayed on the dance floor, arms up in the air as he made his way into the music room where students and teachers danced to the beat of Katy Perry's "California Gurls." There were giggles all around, energizing the room even more.


    Hearn was the second Northwestern Wildcat student-athlete to grace Fuel Up to Play 60 at River Trails. Former basketball standout John Shurna helped kick-off the school's inaugural program last year. School principal Keir Rogers quipped during his introduction of Hearn, "I like basketball, obviously!" 


    Rogers lauded Hearn's accomplishments as a walk-on. "I don't know him personally but he must have resolute toughness because he eventually earned a scholarship. Most student-athletes are recruited and offered scholarships but this student-athlete walked on, meaning he tried out for the team, which is not easy to do in the Big Ten."


    Rogers, himself a former basketball player, urged the students to talk to Hearn. "Go ahead, ask him questions, ask him about being a student-athlete because it's very important that you look up to people like Reggie and say, 'You know what, I aspire to do something great like what he's doing right now.' He's in school, he's doing something beyond basketball."


    Hearn's sprouts have truly blossomed on and off the basketball court.

    Northwestern SAAC Hosts 15th Annual Field Day

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    Northwestern's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) held its 15th annual Field Day Friday on the Wildcats' FieldTurf practice field, welcoming more than 150 area kids to meet and interact with some of their favorite NU student-athletes.

    Children from Family Focus, the McGaw YMCA and the Youth Organization Umbrella (Y.O.U.) visited campus for the afternoon. The 70-member YMCA group remained after Field Day to attend Northwestern's women's volleyball match against No. 1 Penn State at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

    All 19 Northwestern varsity programs hosted various stations consisting of activities relevant to their respective sports. Student-athletes either instructed the young fans on some of the intricacies of their skills or created fun games for the participants to play.

    Each child had the chance to spend time with multiple Wildcat athletic teams, getting the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of sports such as fencing, lacrosse, golf and soccer.
    The swimmers held a relay race at one station while hosting a land-based version of their training game "Sharks and Minnows" at another. The fencers showed the basics of their sport via very safe plastic weapons. Several kids really got into the football station, launching their 4-foot-tall frames into several non-travel squad members who served as tackling dummies.

    Other activities included taking golf, tennis and baseball swings with tennis balls, basketball on lowered hoops and soccer drills and relays. The young girl in the picture below tried her hand at the softball "speed pitch" station, eventually launching the ball 11 miles per hour!

    Kevin Schneider

    UPDATE! Today is Sept. 19, and it is Kevin's birthday! Over the three months since we posted this blog entry, cards, letters and boxes have been rolling in nearly every day. Thanks to hundreds of our fellow universities, professional sports organizations both major and minor and contributions from individual fans and collectors, we were able to give Kevin literally thousands of cards, promotional items and memorabilia today. Check out this video below to see how it went!

    We in Northwestern Athletics have a friend we want to introduce to you. His name is Kevin Schneider, and you can't miss him at our games.


    Kevin is a 35-year-old graduate of Evanston Township High School and has worked at the Dominick's grocery store on Green Bay Road just north of our athletic offices for 17 years. He's a sports fanatic, is active in the Evanston and Chicago communities and has one of the biggest hearts we've ever experienced. He also has a developmental disability, which makes him all the more -- as he would say -- "amazing."


    Kevin has a couple of passions in life that he shares with us, in particular his love of all 19 of our NU varsity sports teams and his schedule card collection from teams across the country. We thank our season ticket holders and boosters in a myriad of ways, and we want to extend the same thank you to Kevin in a way that's unique and special by launching "Schedule Cards for Kevin." We are asking our alumni, fans, family and fellow athletic programs to drop a schedule card in the mail to us so that we can make Kevin's collection as big as the heart he shares daily with our coaches, student-athletes and staff. Continue reading for the details and to get to know Kevin a little bit better!

    Northwestern's Department of Athletics staff took a day out of the office Friday, June 8, to volunteer at five different locations around the Evanston and Skokie communities. While the Wildcat student-athletes spend many hours of their free time volunteering across the Chicagoland area, rare is the opportunity for our staff to shut down and make similar contributions. More than 100 NU staff gave their time Friday morning -- find out more about each place we went after the jump!

    Shurna Helps Students "Fuel Up to Play 60"

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    Photo Gallery

    By Jocelyn Vinoya Serranilla

    Newly crowned three-point champion John Shurna may add one more title to his already impressive resume: physical fitness advocate for school children.


    Shurna drained advice to middle schoolers as fast as he rained three's on his opponents that made him win the three-point shootout title. "Make the right choices, eat nutritious food, stay active everyday," he told students at River Trails Middle School, urging them to commit to a healthy lifestyle in school and in the community.


    Shurna's visit on Thursday, April 5 coincided with the school's assembly to kick off its commitment to Fuel Up To Play 60, a program that promotes a healthy lifestyle through nutritious meals, exercise and physical activities for at least 60 minutes a day. Sponsored by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League, Fuel Up encourages school children to eat nutrient-rich foods, including food containing low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and to engage in exercise and physical activities everyday.


    Sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students at River Trails packed their gymnasium as early as 7:50 in the morning, some wearing purple Wildcat T-shirts with Northwestern men's basketball logos, while awaiting the surprise visitor from the Northwestern Wildcats. When school principal Keir Rogers introduced the Wildcat's all-time men's basketball leading scorer, the crowd let a thunderous applause, greeting Shurna's presence with hoots and whistles. Most of the comments heard from the crowd ranged from, 'He's so tall," to, "he's a cool guy." 


    "How is it going, guys? Thanks for having me," Shurna crackled, bending over to reach the microphone, then adjusting the stand to avoid bending so low, as the principal, who stands a little over six-feet tall commented, "John is a foot taller than I am," drawing more laughter from students and staff.


    "This is going to be a great day," Rogers said, as he beamed to acknowledge the students' enthusiasm for the program and Shurna's presence. "We are very happy to have John Shurna come out and speak to our students today," Rogers says. One student in the crowd let his excitement known by screaming, "John!" as the 6-9 Shurna walked over the podium.


    Shurna shared his experience at Northwestern, explaining to the kids that although strength and conditioning coaches and athletic trainers help him to compete at the highest level as a student-athlete, he still has to make a choice. "Junk food," he says, "will always be there, and it's very tempting. Choose nutritious food. The more energy you have, the more time you have to play outside," he told the kids.


    "Eating nutritious food definitely helped me stay active and to reach a lot of my goals academically and athletically." Shurna's presence at the assembly helped the school celebrate its signing up to Fuel Up To Play 60, becoming one of 72,000 schools across the United States committed to a healthy lifestyle. The commitment makes River Trails Middle School, located in Mt. Prospect, one of 4,000 schools in Illinois eligible to a grant award from the National Dairy Council and the NFL. Grants may include additional resources, tools, rewards and incentives for students in grades K-12, adult advisers and the school.


    "John is a great example to our students not just because he is an athlete but more so because he is a student-athlete who puts a lot of effort into being a student," Rogers told the crowd. "John is a great example to be in front of you, not just because he is an aspiring professional athlete. Keep in mind that he is a student-athlete who has done a decent job in the classroom, and also takes care of business with his body, physical fitness and athletics."


    Besides Shurna, former Chicago Bears wide receiver Anthony Morgan, and a doctor from the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians, a registered dietician and a professional chef all assisted in the kick-off. Morgan, drafted by the Bears in 1991, urged the students to stay involved, noting that he was "excited to be around great athletes, great individuals and the next generation of powerful individuals."


    After the assembly in the gym, students were divided into groups and were led by their teachers to different stations where they participated in hula hoops, run relays, volleyball, dance exercise, calorie counting, push-ups and pulse-rate monitoring. Shurna and Morgan visited each station and mingled with students throughout each visit. Matt Abfall and Grant Wagner, both seventh graders, were quick to grab Shurna for a quick photo op. Wagner proudly showed Shurna his purple T-shirt that says, "Northwestern Basketball." And how do these kids from suburban Mt. Prospect know Shurna? Both Wagner and Abfall were quick to reply, "We watch him on TV."


    George Keehn, physical education teacher at River Trails Middle School, echoes Rogers's praise for Shurna, saying, "I think John Shurna is an inspiration to every athlete who wants to succeed because he is someone who works as hard as he possibly could to get to where he is at. Most people would have given up a long time down the road but his courage, his work ethic and his success is absolutely terrific."


    Were the kids excited to have Shurna? "Very much," says Keehn. "I've got these kids now running relays and I talked about John Shurna and they cannot believe that he can probably be in the NBA next year, which is great and that's a great inspiration for them because they can see that he's a regular guy. Kids can relate to Shurna and say, "Hey, I'm a regular guy. I can be as successful."


    Thirteen-year old Abfall, who eagerly awaited his turn to have a picture taken with Shurna, says, "I watched him win the three-point contest. I watched him beat Juan Fernandez of Temple." Now Shurna can proudly say he watched these kids Fuel Up to Play 60.



    Northwestern Athletics Volunteers to Feed Thousands

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    Check out a photo gallery from the Whole Foods Parking Lot!

    By Jocelyn Vinoya Serranilla

    The parking lot of Whole Foods in Northbrook, Ill., became an unlikely source of spring workouts for fellow Northwestern Wildcats student-athletes Tim Weak and Dannielle Diamant as they gripped, grabbed and lifted 40-pound boxes of whole chicken fryers and leg quarters while volunteering for a community outreach project.

    Northwestern students took to the dance floor over the weekend for Dance Marathon 2012 benefiting The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, and NU Athletics was proud to play a bigger role than ever in helping the dancers raise more than $1 million for the second-consecutive year.


    BLOG: NU Men's Soccer Hosts B+ AYSO Clinic

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    Photo Gallery

    EVANSTON, Ill. - Last Sunday, the Wildcat men's soccer team collaborated with the Northwestern chapter of Dance Marathon and the B+ foundation for an AYSO clinic in the Trienens indoor practice facility. Members of the NU Big Ten champion men's soccer team worked with clinic participants, which included B+ heroes, on various soccer drills and games during the two-hour session.


    The B+ Foundation holds a special place in the hearts of the NU men's soccer team as alum Eamon O'Neill ('09) is the Midwest Regional Director of the charitable organization. B+ honors the memory of Andrew McDonough, a 14-year-old athlete and student from Wilmington, Del. In 2007, Andrew helped lead his team to victory in a state championship soccer tournament. Within 48 hours, he was in cardiac arrest and diagnosed with Luekemia (AML). The doctors didn't expect Andrew to live through the night, but he fought for 167 days. B+ not only reflected Andrew's blood type, but the way he lived his life and how he inspired others to do the same.


    The B+ Foundation is the beneficiary for the 2012 Dance Marathon and also partnered with the men's soccer team during the 2011 season. Prior to the regular season home finale vs. Indiana, Dance Marathon members collected donations with all proceeds going towards the B+ Foundation.


    This clinic is just one of many initiatives Northwestern Athletics has partnered with Dance Marathon on in their support of raising awareness and funds for B+ during the 2011-12 school year. Dance Marathon continues to raise money for the organization at various athletic events and B+ Heroes have been guests on the sidelines at NU football games and practices and will have a presence at an upcoming men's basketball game.


    For more information on the B+ Foundation, visit or contact NU men's soccer alum Eamon O'Neill (

    BLOG: NU Fencers Visit Dewey Elementary

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    Evanston, Ill. -- When's the last time you heard of kids learning medieval sword techniques on an average school day in Evanston?

    On Friday, January 28, Dewey Elementary third and fourth graders participated in an interactive fencing session led by the Northwestern Wildcat women's fencing team. Beyond a lively discussion about the lore and literal history of fencing, students learned about each weapon, the foil, sabre and epée, and just how real the sport of fencing is today. 

    Fencing weapons (the plastic variety) and gear were handled and basic techniques were shared and practiced. Students also learned a bit about what it takes to balance the rigors of a top university education with the training and travel of a highly competitive sport.

    "This is really cool," commented fourth graders as they practiced proper lunge techniques.

    Other students were eager to share personal stories of their exposure to the sport, and there was a ripple of enthusiasm about watching fencing in the upcoming Olympic Games.

    "I know I have grown up a lot from this sport and without it I would not be at Northwestern University," says NU fencer Alicia Gurrieri. "The individual aspect [of fencing] forces competitors to always solve problems on their own and try harder each day."

    Dewey teachers strive to regularly impart such lessons to students. Physical education teacher Julie Stevenson explained, "The involvement with NU reinforces what I am telling my students and it gives them a real life role-model that they can aspire to be like in terms of academics, character, and athletics."

    Dewey and Northwestern are planning more fencing sessions as well as a fine arts extension, where students will advance their life drawing skills in renderings of fencing poses.

    Friday's session was the latest in a diverse series of collaborations between the Dewey Wellness Committee and Northwestern University student-athletes from many of the 19 varsity sports. The fencing team first volunteered at Dewey's International Walk to School Day event last October when fencers were bombarded with questions from eager students.

    "Today was a natural extension of the October event," said Stephanie Fine, parent and co-chair of the Dewey Wellness Committee. "Students were eager to learn about fencing, the fencers were very generous with their time, and the school embraced the opportunity. We look forward to future collaborations."

    Courtesy Dewey Elementary

    Northwestern SAAC Food Drive Nets Record Donations

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    Through a spirited competition among staff and varsity programs, Northwestern's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee collected a record amount of canned goods during its annual food drive to benefit the Evanston branch of Family Focus.

    In a contest that officially ended yesterday, NU's athletes and staff members collected and delivered more than 6,100 units of canned and non-perishable food items for donation to Family Focus. The total shattered the old record of 5,700 established during last year's SAAC food drive. This year's SAAC effort was spearheaded by board members Belinda Niu (women's tennis) and Levi Mele (wrestling) along with the rest of the board.

    "The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee's annual food drive provides an opportunity for the entire Northwestern athletic department and the Evanston community to band together for a great cause," said SAAC co-president Jonathan Harris of men's soccer. "We at Northwestern realize how truly fortunate we are, and collecting food for those in need enables us to give back to our Evanston community.

    NU's 19 varsity programs competed among themselves to see who could bring in the most donations while the Northwestern Department of Athletics staff also held a separate contest. The overall winner was the NU baseball team, which collected a whopping 2,470 units. The team delivered the haul in dramatic fashion, pulling up to the front doors of Anderson Hall 30 minutes before the 5 p.m. deadline with two pickup trucks and two SUVs packed to the gills with foodstuffs.

    "It was exciting to see the thought process they put into the food drive this year," head baseball coach Paul Stevens said. "Our guys are so energized about making sure those who are less fortunate than them are taken care of all year long. Putting food on someone's table who otherwise might not be able to have it is pretty awesome."

    In addition to staff and student-athletes, Northwestern fans had the opportunity to give at recent men's and women's basketball games. Some elected to bring in physical canned goods while others donated money to the cause. That money was used during a shopping trip to Sam's Club today that netted more than 100 additional food items.

    "This year's drive was an absolute success," Harris said. "The competition between the teams and within the athletic department really brought out the competitiveness in everyone, which enhanced the giving spirit!"

    Contribute to Northwestern SAAC Food Drive

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    In this season of giving, the Northwestern Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is encouraging fans to donate to its annual food drive. Individuals attending this Friday's men's basketball game against Stony Brook and the women's women's basketball game against North Carolina State on Nov. 30 are asked to bring non-perishable canned food items for donation.

    Those who donate are eligible to enter to win a raffle for gift cards. The beneficiary of the food drive is Family Focus.

    In addition to the two basketball games, donations can also be dropped off at SPAC on the Northwestern campus, the Globe Cafe and Bar in the Hilton Orrington Hotel, the Northwestern University Police Station as well as Evanston Fire Departments. The last day to drop off items at the Evanston locations is Thursday, Dec. 1.

    Click to View a Photo Gallery of the Celebration

    Click to View a Video of the Celebration

    Just like he has been doing since the day he arrived at Northwestern, senior offensive tackle Al Netter volunteered for some community service work Wednesday afternoon. Netter traveled to Lincolnwood Elementary School in Evanston for what he thought would be a reading and Q&A session with a fourth grade class, but instead the afternoon turned into a party in his honor.

    In September, Netter was chosen as one of 11 Football Bowl Subdivision members of the Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team® in recognition of his dedication to community service and off-the-field accomplishments. This marks the sixth consecutive year a Wildcat has been among the 11 Football Bowl Subdivision players chosen, the longest streak for any school in the program's 20-year history.

    A Northwestern captain and member of NU's Leadership Council for the last two years, Netter has started 42 consecutive games at left tackle for the Wildcats and is a two-time honorable mention All-Big Ten performer.

    Off the field, the Rohnert Park, Calif., native has gone to great lengths to help those less fortunate at home and abroad. In 2010, Netter traveled to Guatemala an alternative spring break trip during which he helped cultivate farmland for local residents as well as teach English and prepare meals at an orphanage. More recently, Netter was a founding member of the Northwestern chapter of Uplifting Athletes which raises money for individuals with Niemann-Pick Type C, a rare genetic cholesterol storage disorder that deteriorates the nervous system.

    On Wednesday, the Lincolnwood students created a life-size Al Netter drawing in anticipation of his visit. In addition, they made a banner congratulating him on his award -- a banner which remained hidden until the appropriate moment. After Netter read the book, he took questions from the students for a few minutes before Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald opened the door and walked into the room, much to the surprise of Netter and to the delight of the students.

    Television cameras and representatives from Allstate and the AFCA Good Works Team® also entered the room, and the award presentation and party was on. Students posed with Netter and Coach Fitz, displaying their banner and some football schedule posters brought along by NU Athletic Department staffers.

    Wednesday's ceremony is not the end of the celebration. As part of the honor, Netter is invited to attend the Allstate Sugar Bowl for a ceremony and associated service projects in the New Orleans area.

    Wildcats Welcome Friends from Misericordia to Practice

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    Photo Gallery

    Northwestern's men's basketball program has a long history of being involved in community service efforts in Evanston and the surrounding communities and that tradition continued Thursday as it welcomed a group from Misericordia to practice.

    Located just south of Evanston along Ridge Avenue in Chicago, Misericordia offers a community of care that maximizes potential for persons with mild to profound developmental disabilities, many of whom are also physically challenged. Misericordia serves and houses more than 600 children and adults on its 31-acre campus. The organization is operated by the Sisters of Mercy under the auspices of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.


    Many of the members who attended Wednesday's practice participate in a Special Olympics basketball team. They had the opportunity to watch some of the Wildcats' practice as well as shoot baskets with the team afterward and get autographs from the squad.


    Northwestern's men's basketball program has also been heavily involved with a wide variety of events such as the University's annual Relay For Life as well as the athletic department's annual Field Day. Last season, the team welcomed a group from Children's Heart Foundation which was NU's primary beneficiary of the popular Dance Marathon.

    Northwestern SAAC Hosts 14th Annual Field Day

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    Northwestern's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) held its 14th annual Field Day Friday on the Wildcats' FieldTurf practice field, welcoming nearly 150 area kids to meet and interact with some of their favorite NU student-athletes.

    On Wednesday, Oct. 5, Northwestern student-athletes participated in International Walk to School Day, an event for middle and elementary school students around the world designed to encourage physical activity and combat childhood obesity. Northwestern's women's fencing team gathered on street corners around Dewey Elementary School early this morning to cheer on students taking part in the event by walking or riding their bicycles to school.


    "Today was great!" said Alicia Gurrieri, a junior fencer from Medford, N.J. "It was exciting to see kids who were enthusiastic to be going to school on such a beautiful day outside. We cheered them on and I really hope the kids enjoyed it, too."


    The event, started in 1997, was spurred on by First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Campaign, an initiative designed to increase physical activity and encourage parents to make healthy choices. According to a press release from the city, Evanston students joined 2,233 other schools in the country and 42 other countries around the world in the effort to promote fitness.


    "Dewey kids proudly held handmade signs, counted their steps to school, followed safe walking routes designated by the school district, and raced school buses on their final blocks to school," said Event Coordinator Stephanie Fine in an email. "One ambitious kindergartener even dressed up in his very own Dewey tiger costume! Upon arrival at school, students were surprised with tiger paw stickers and Northwestern pencils, both sure to keep the walking topic top of mind for some time."


    International Walk To School Day also serves to raise awareness of schools' safe walking routes and environmental benefits due to reduced car trips. During drop-off and pick-up hours, area traffic in Evanston and Skokie increases by an estimated 25 percent, according to the City of Evanston's news release.


    "In this global effort to decrease the environmental footprint while improving health and wellness, Dewey students joined children and families worldwide to show the power of unified efforts to improve world and personal health. This has been a topic at the school from some weeks leading up to the event, with teachers and families accessing ideas and resources via and making up their own fun activities," said Fine. 


    In an email to parents and students, Superintendent of Schools Hardy Murphy echoed the enthusiasm:


    "This year, District 65 has joined with many community partners to collaborate on a variety of initiatives seeking to promote health and wellness in our schools. As the global community continues to get smaller, a gesture like walking to school when executed by thousands of children across the world can have a universal impact."

    Wildcat Soccer Players Volunteer at NU-AYSO Soccer Jam

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    Photo Gallery

    Prior to the Northwestern men's soccer game against UMKC on Labor Day, the Wildcat men's and women's soccer teams lent a helping hand by assisting in the NU-American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) Soccer Jam.


    More than 300 AYSO players, aged 4-12, participated in the two-hour clinic at Lakeside Field where they learned different soccer skills from Northwestern players and enjoyed a visit from Willie the Wildcat. AYSO then held a pregame tailgate for nearly 800 Wildcat fans who later helped cheer the Wildcats to a 2-0 win over the Kangaroos.


    "The Evanston AYSO, with over 1,800 kids and 500 adult volunteers, could not be more thrilled to have such a fantastic partnership with the Northwestern soccer program," Regional Commissioner of the Evanston AYSO #735 Ryan Garton said. "Our NU-AYSO Soccer Jam on Labor Day weekend was a fun time for all--soccer skills and drills, a classic tailgate and AYSO helped to cheer the men's soccer team to a victory! It's fantastic to have kids, parents and students all together in soccer."


    The clinic also featured a number of giveaways and NU players signed autographs for the AYSO players. Be sure to check out the photo gallery at the top of the page from the NU-AYSO Soccer Jam.

    Northwestern's women's swimmers volunteered as Swim Angels at the 2011 Big Shoulders Open Water Swim Classic 5K on Saturday, Sept. 10. The race featured a two-lap course in Lake Michigan beginning at the Ohio Street Beach; NU men's swimmer Charlie Rimkus won the men's portion of the 20th anniversary edition in 2010.

    The organizers of the race instituted a "Swim Angel" program beginning this year, and Northwestern quickly agreed to participate to take advantage of being visible at a National event in a sport getting a big push ahead of an Olympic year. Swim Angels buddy up with swimmers who need encouragement to help them complete the race.

    "The Big Shoulders race was a fantastic opportunity for our team to be a part of a larger swimming community and experience a different side of the sport we love," Northwestern team captain Meghan Cavanaugh said. "It was great for team bonding and wonderful exposure for the Northwestern Women's Swimming team!"

    In addition to the current Wildcats, Ellis herself and alums such as NU 100 fly record-holder Katie Braun served as Angels. Only a few participants elected to swim with an Angel, leading many of the Wildcats to enter the water en masse behind the pack and team up with any swimmers who needed help along the way.

    One particular participant requested a buddy and senior Jenny Wilson swam alongside her. The racer had never competed in an open water 5K swim before and had set a goal time for herself of 3.5 hours -- a long time to be in waters with temperatures of 64-65 degrees. Several Wildcats teamed up during the back half of the race to help her finish, which she did in 2.75 hours -- way under her goal time. The majority of the Northwestern team was on the beach waiting for her at the finish, cheering and high-fiving her as she left the water in a very emotional and triumphant scene.

    After the race, Northwestern's Angels turned into a clean-up crew, helping to break down the set-up and clear the beach of refuse.

    Also of note:
    Northwestern graduate, world open water champion and 10-time U.S. open water champion Erica Rose finished second overall in the race for the women -- while wearing a cast. Rose previously won the race three-straight years from 2007-09 before taking second a year ago. Earlier this year, she won the 28.5 mile Manhattan Island Swim, which is a circumnavigation of Manhattan Island in New York.

    Football Players Participate in 'Cats in the Classroom

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    In conjunction with last week's Paint Evanston Purple festivities, as well as Evanston Day at Ryan Field last Saturday, Northwestern football players took to three local elementary schools--St. Athanasius, Lincolnwood, and Kingley--to participate in the 'Cats in the Classroom initiative.

    Sophomore punter Brandon Williams took time out to detail the Wildcats' visit to St. A's which is located just one block away from Ryan Field.

    Photo Gallery

    Watch Video of the 'Cats at Lincolnwood Elementary

    After being told about an opportunity to share with grade school age students at St. Athanasius, five of my teammates and I were eager to sign up. To be honest, we expected to be sharing to a smaller group of maybe 30 or 50 students so you can imagine our surprise when finding out that we were to be a large part of the school's first yearly assembly. At first, no one was sure about talking to more like 350 students, but once we arrived at St. A's, we realized we were in good hands.

    Mrs. Castagna, the principal, invited us into her office when we arrived at the school after a short walk down Ashland Avenue from Ryan Field. None of us had been called to the principal's office in years, but after some jokes about us being in trouble, we were introduced to what would be happening in the assembly.

    Mrs. Castagna shared with us the school's theme this year of, "Called to Learn, Love and Lead," something that resounded with each one of us as members not only of the Northwestern football team, but also as students at a prestigious academic institution. We have understood this idea from the moment we stepped foot in Evanston knowing that learning takes priority over our athletic careers, but also that learning is not limited to merely academic knowledge, but also includes our social lives. Learning to love over 100 teammates as a family and learning to lead, not only on the field but also in the community. It's safe to say we have learned a lot.

    Jeff Budzien, Jake Gregus, Pat Hickey, Chris Gradone, Steve Flaherty and I took our seats in the front of the gymnasium as the students poured in. Ranging from kindergarteners to eighth graders and arranged by age, they slowly filled the basketball court from front to back. Mrs. Castagna kicked off the assembly by introducing the year's theme and welcomed the students. The student council then asked us questions about aspects of being part of a team. We were able to share with them everything from how we balance school and athletics, to how we deal with issues within our team. The students listened attentively and, after the student council finished with their list of questions, eagerly asked us about our positions on the team and about how much we could bench press. Since two of us are punters, two more kickers and a long snapper, we allowed Jake Gregus (a defensive end) to answer and his response of 350 pounds, resulted in the loudest applause of the day.

    After we shared with the students, we were able to spend time autographing posters for them and talking to some of the faculty. We were excited to learn about the football game being played on Ryan Field directly following our game against Eastern Illinois this upcoming Saturday between St. A's and Wilmette Catholic. The game was all part of Evanston Day, Saturday, Sept. 10, which is all part of the larger Paint Evanston Purple campaign that included a pep rally on Thursday and participation from numerous Evanston businesses.

    The support from the city of Evanston towards Northwestern Athletics is something that not only is appreciated, but something that is needed. We are so lucky to be in a city like Evanston where we are supported and being able to step out of the bubble of college football to share with grade school children about something bigger than athletics is something that we all were excited to be able to do. We realize the importance of our being actively involved in the community and that our participation could never come close the support we've felt from the community towards us. The 'Cats in the Classroom program, which is in conjunction with the Paint Evanston Purple campaign, is just one way that we are able to give back to the community that we have been blessed to receive so much from. We appreciate every opportunity to be a part of this amazing town and look forward to seeing everyone at Ryan Field.

    Go 'Cats and Go Redhawks!

    On Friday, July 22, four Northwestern student-athletes traveled to the Illinois Youth Center -- Chicago, a Level M Juvenile Detention Center located in Chicago's West side. The Center, which handles a population of 104 with an average age of 16, offers transitional programs for delinquent teens, hoping to provide them with the proper education to help them stay out and stay clean once their term has been served. The Northwestern student-athletes, along with a member of the Illinois Bar Association, held a short, two-part program for some of the inmates with the highest academic standing. The first part of the program consisted of a question and answer session, during which members of the IYC talked with the student-athletes about athletics, about college life, about their high school days and their professional dreams, and about what it takes to stay focused, go to college and stay clean. This was followed by some time on the basketball court, where the Northwestern students engaged the IYC members in a few light-hearted small scrimmages. The following is what 2011 NU graduate Michael "Juice" Thompson had to say about the experience...


    Last Friday four Northwestern University student-athletes, in conjunction with Northwestern University staff, traveled to the Westside of Chicago on a dark and gloomy morning to the Illinois Youth Center. 


    We arrived with the mindset of providing guidance, motivation and inspiration to young men within ages 13-18 for their futures.


    Upon our arrival, we were reminded that we must leave our cell phones in the car. I instantly thought "what am I going do for two plus hours without my cell phone, this is going to be terrible." Little did I know that this would turn out to be quite the memorable experience. Once we entered the building we signed in and went through a medal detector and from there we entered into the gymnasium where we all sat and talked to the young men of the Illinois Youth Center. It wasn't too difficult to get acclimated to the situation. It was a question and answer style conversation and moved along pretty smoothly. The boys came prepared and had many questions to ask, thank God Northwestern prepares us students for public speaking and answering questions in an interview because some of these kids were asking questions tougher than the Big Ten Network interviews. It was exciting to answer their questions, ask them questions and get to know them.

    After the question and answer portion, many of us went straight to the cooler for what might have been the coldest, yet most refreshing water I've ever had. After the water break we went onto the basketball court for a 3-point competition which us student-athletes won (obviously... They had Michael "Juice" Thompson on their team). After we scrimmaged, they had five players against our four and the boys of the youth center took it to us and won the game! Not going to lie, these young men had serious game. After the game it was time to go, we all exchanged words which mainly consisted of "good luck" and handshakes.


    Overall, it was a great experience for us all. We got to meet new people and share our personal experiences with others. Inspiring others inspires me!


    The other student-athletes that were present were freshmen, two basketball players Dave Sobolewski and Tre Demps and one football player Zack Oliver. As the lone graduate and oldest of the four I was looked at to answer more questions and provide more of my personal experiences as I not only tried to inspire the boys of the youth center, but the student-athletes and myself!


    Michael "Juice" Thompson 

    Five incoming Northwestern freshmen took time out from summer school and workouts Saturday, July 16, to lend a strong hand at a rummage sale at St. Nicholas Church in Evanston.

    Max Champan, Mark Szott, Shane Mertz, Drew Smith and Treyvon Green carried furniture, boxes and bags for neighbors of St. Nick's at its annual rummage sale. The group also helped folks load trucks, vans and cars with items, even helping some of the St. Nick's people with their own items as well.

    "Their help made our jobs so much easier, and our West Town neighbors will now have a load of useful items that will make their lives easier," said Lori Goodman of St. Nicholas Church. "It was a great day and we could not have asked for better volunteers."

    While not officially related, the freshmen footballers' good use of strength last Saturday is an apt preview for the Northwestern Chapter of Uplifting Athletes "Lift For Life" taking place at 6 p.m. CT Friday, July 22, at Ryan Field (in case of rain, it will be held in the Trienens Hall indoor facility just north of Ryan Field). Nearly every Wildcat who is in Evanston for the summer will participate in this wholly student-athlete run event, which was officially announced in this release and benefits the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation dedicated to finding a cure for Neimann-Pick Disease Type C, or NP-C. More background on Uplifting Athletes and the NU chapter is available at

    The Lift for Life is open to the public -- which is highly encouraged to attend. First, fans will watch the student-athletes compete in a bracket-style tournament of eight teams similar to the NU football Winning Edge competition. Events will include an obstacle course and bench press competition among others. After the champion is crowned, kids in attendance will be invited down to the field for tug of war and to race against the Wildcats. Everyone at that time is invited to Walker Terrace for a BBQ and Meet and Greet with the student-athletes.

    Spectators will watch from the home stands and are encouraged to stick around and eat afterwards. Admission and the BBQ are free, but donations to the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation are highly encouraged.

    "We will be accepting donations at the front gate as well as for the food," said NU senior Ricky Weina, who is helping run the Lift for Life. "There will be t-shirts and wristbands for sale, and a "penny war" style collection for the bench press competition. We also accept online donations, just choose a player and donate in their name."

    If you have questions, leave them in the comments and we'll find answers for you from our Uplifting Athletes!