How sports can help

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By: Rachel Buck
Sports Information Assistant

A challenge was issued to me, trying to make this blogBrewers-free despite their presence in the MLB playoffs this season. All I will say is that the only reason the Crew dropped yesterday’s game was so they can win the pennant at home, I mean, doesn’t the champagne/Miller High Life taste so much sweeter in your own clubhouse?

Alright, those of you who have stuck through the Brewers talk, here will be the last mention, serving as the inspiration for my blog this week. Before last night’s Brewers/Cardinals game, the Kilar family from Whitewater had the special honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

No, they didn’t win a contest and they aren’t the neighbors of owner Mark Attanasio. Last year, Treyton Kilar, the son of Mike and Mary Kilar, was tragically killed by a drunk driver just one month short of his seventh birthday. You can read the full story here, but basically the kid was a huge Brewers fan, especially of Prince Fielder, and it was fitting that Prince was the one who caught the pitch.

It always amazes me how sports can be used as a tool not only to deal with grief, but also celebrate individuals who are less fortunate than the players that take to the field.

Is here a better cause for W&L Athletics than the Special Olympics?

For example, the NCAA Division III SAAC announced a partnership with Special Olympics over the summer. Several athletic teams at W&L have jumped on the opportunity to work with SO, including women’s soccer and football, and many additional opportunities are in the works.

The feedback from the “General for a Day” campaign has been tremendous, and I can personally say that there is no feeling quite like working with the Special Olympics and its athletes.

My passion for the organization started in high school, where I was an active volunteer for regional and state events hosted in my hometown. It was especially inspiring because my high school Spanish teacher, Señora Knott, had a daughter who participated. Kate was a manager for our women’s basketball team, and was a constant inspiration to have working with the team. Kate traveled with the team, attended every practice and we always did our best to make sure she was included in team dinners and other outings.

But it was when Kate was on the court before/after practices and participating with her Special Olympics teammates (she loved basketball, bowling and swimming) that I learned the most from her.

My parents raised me with humility. Be thankful for what you have, and help those who have not been as fortunate as you. While I definitely brushed that off in my younger years, as I have grown older (and a bit wiser) I now fully understand what they taught me and how much it really means.

When I think back to high school, while not everyday was sunshine and rainbows with Kate (she had a habit of locking herself in a bathroom stall when she was upset), she did help me appreciate what I was born with and how I shouldn’t take it for granted.

Watching her shoot hoops before practice with the team cheering her on was always a great pick-up after a long day at school, especially when she hammed it up, running up and down the court while trying to show off her dribbling skills.

The most exciting time of the year for Kate was the regional bowling tournament, held at Lincoln Lanes in my hometown of Merrill, Wisc., I helped with the tournament every year, and Kate was always excited when I showed up and I could meet all of her friends.

An amazing group of athletes, those kids (and adults) always made me envious because they seemed to be able to grasp a concept that, at that time, I didn’t understand: how to live in the moment.  They seemed to have everything, always smiling, always happy, totally oblivious to the outside world and what they may be saying about them or how they look at them. They were just comfortable being themselves, and enjoying whatever was happening around them at that moment in time.

In a society where so many of us feel constantly judged and worried about how we appear to others it was refreshing to see a group of people who were just happy to be themselves. Talk about a powerful lesson.

And although I’m leaving W&L for a position at George Mason University at the end of October, I am excited to see how the athletic department at W&L continues to grow and develop the partnership. It is a great opportunity not only for the students, student-athletes, faculty and staff on campus to become involved, but also a chance for the surrounding Rockbridge County community to support its neighbors and a wonderful organization.

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