Giving Back to the Community
By: Emily Peters
Community service is one of the most rewarding feelings that someone can experience throughout his or her lifetime. Having the opportunity to give back to your community is a trait that many people can look up to and be able to follow. There are many different opportunities for people to give back and help out at organizations. For example; Special Olympics, Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN), Arlington Housing Community (AHC), Habitat for Humanity and many more.
There are a number of ways that student athletes are able to give back to our small community in Arlington, Virginia. Multiple Marymount teams on campus contribute through community service, as well. It is a great way to show the community around us how much people care about one another. Many people think that student athletes only contribute in the athletic and academic aspects, but they do not see the extra work that they put in on the side. Athletes are able to express how they act through community service which is a great representation of the type of people we are here at Marymount University. It shows Marymount’s core values and how we are taught to live while being a student. The Marymount Women’s lacrosse team participates in most community service, which is what they are very known for on campus. Kate Athing is the head coach for the team. Along with coaching her team on the field, she coaches them to help the team’s community. Freshman Erin Cannon, was happy to find out all the hours she had to do with her team, being that she has to complete many every semester. The Special Olympics began with the help of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who is President John F. Kennedy’s sister. The purpose in starting this organization was to assist and educate people on the way they look at people with mental disabilities. The Special Olympics is a corporation that is near and dear to the Kennedy family due to the fact that one family member has a mental disability, this being Rosemary Kennedy. While starting up this world changing organization, Eunice was very excited to show to people why this cause is so important. She believed that it should be brought to people in everyday life and bring awareness to people with mental disabilities. The organization started as a summer camp that took place in Sargent and Eunice Shriver’s backyard. According to the Special Olympics website, the first ever “International Special Olympics Games at Soldier Field in Chicago ” took place in July of 1968. Ever since then it has been growing tremendously and is now the biggest organization in that genre.
Special Olympics is an organization that is very near and dear to many families. Caroline Wolford is a special education major who works with children everyday that have autism and down syndrome. Like many other families, Wolford wanted this career path because of what she experiences in home life. Working with people with Down Syndrome is very rewarding, you have to be so patient and willing to learn from them. Being able to adapt differently to people with Down Syndrome takes a lot to recognize because, yes they are just like any other person and have the ability to do anything, but they still need extra watch and some things have to be modified for them to actually go through the motions of an activity.
Arlington Housing Community (AHC Inc). is the organization that the women’s lacrosse team works with every year. Every Tuesday the lacrosse team travels in their vans to downtown Arlington to tutor kids. These children are all part of the after school program that takes place in the building that they live in. AHC was established in 1975, this organization helps give people homes that are fair prices that they can buy. AHC also supplies educational curriculum for children living in the building to give them a more stable outcome for their lives. AHC had worked so hard throughout the years to provide housing for people that are not able to afford high income homes. So far they have been able to “preserve forty-nine properties providing more than six thousand five hundred affordable workforce and market-rate apartments.” Being able to work with kids that have so little is so rewarding because it is shown that people can really make an impact on their lives. Caroline Wolford says, “Students are different when they are working after school, they do not seem as stressed and it is an awesome way for us to get to know one another outside of school work.” The kids that the women’s lacrosse team works with don’t experience much outside of their homes, they live all in the same apartments, most of them all go to the same schools, then after school they came back to their after school program, then walk upstairs at the end of the day to spend time with their families.
Habitat for Humanity is a huge name all around the world. It is found in all fifty states and is found in over seventy countries. It was founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller who are the founders of habitat for humanity. They started this organization for people who are in need of a roof over their heads, and working on building those homes that are low cost for those in need. The homes being built are free of cost for the home owners, and the payments for the homes are covered by the money raised by the fundraising. According to the website, The first people to be moved into a house were Beau and Emma, the house was built by “Koinonia’s Partnership Housing Program.” Beau, Emma and their five kids lived in this home that had everything that would help them live a life that they wanted to live. While in their previous living space there was nothing that gave them the opportunity to live a life that they wanted to. This organization is an amazing way for people all around the world to give back to their community. Cannon stated that, “A lot of people do not see how important it is to help out others, by giving a little bit of your time to someone else will impact someone else’s life greatly.” It keeps people active while giving other families a sense of love and care from one another. Especially families like ones at Habitat for humanity, people like Cannon can really make a world of a difference in their lives in the smallest way.
KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now) is an organization that was originally started in Oxford, England, founded by Elliott Portnoy. Portnoy later moved the organization to Washington, DC with his wife, Estee Portnoy in 1992. KEEN helps children with disabilities around the world to better their ability to stay active and still be able to do what every other child is doing in today’s society. It is known in seven cities around the United States: DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, and St. Louis. KEEN gives children the opportunity to be able to feel like they are a part of something bigger. Having so many volunteers that help out every year makes their program so much better because many of the volunteers are young adults and people that have been around children with disabilities their whole life. KEEN is a great organization to get children at all ages active and able to do so many things that other children without disabilities can do. KEEN is very similar to Special Olympics in the sense that it keeps children and adults active, but KEEN stays inside and allows these children to do inside activities. KEEN also is open to many children with all different disabilities. Children with autism, down syndrome, learning disabilities and so many more all take part in the activities. Athing has participated in many different organizations that she states, “is something special and life changing.” Working with all of these foundations is something everyone should be able to experience. They will cherish every moment being spent with the kids and helping out building homes that will make a family life better than they could ever imagine. Athing mentions why community service has such a positive impact on people’s lives: “Community service can be just as rewarding to the person serving, then it is the person getting help. This helps others with your own personal outlook and values.” Community service is so important in someone’s life, it shows a sense of care and love that one has for their community that has done so much for them.
Athing has the women’s lacrosse team taking part in more service than any other team on campus. Along with the community service, the players participate every week, by tutoring kids and helping them in the after school program. The team also participates in service that revolves around volunteering to coach young girls’ lacrosse clinics, working at retirement homes, and helping out to organize and run a 5K that is held at Marymount every year. Athing has been participating in community service since she was a kid, and it is something that has impacted her life greatly. Throughout her early adulthood, Athing was an elementary school teacher. When she was a teacher, she worked with underserved populations. This helped her to realize that these people need to have connections with different types of people. This is when she took her team to the school that she used to work at, and it just bloomed from there on out.
Athing has not only worked with her team and AHC, but has put herself out there to many other communities. She has gained much insight from participating in all these communities. Athing said, “All different types of people make up our community. Community service allows people that would know each other, find each other. At the end of the day it helps us to support each other in their different ways.”
Erin Cannon came in freshman year with a community service scholarship, and every semester she has to do sixty hours to fulfill her requirement to maintain the scholarship. While getting an hour every week for AHC, Cannon still has to work outside with other organizations to make sure she gets all her hours done every semester. “Last semester I made lunches for the homeless. I made over 100 lunches for the people in the Arlington area,” Said Cannon. She began her community service involvement through her parents. Her parents were involved in her community in her hometown, and it encouraged her to follow in their footsteps. Cannon explains her involvement in her community in her hometown. “I am a member of my church, the youth organizations, and in certain middle schools across my town.”
Although Wolford’s work with children is not technically community service, she still participates with many organizations on the weekends working with children to help better their everyday lives. Wolford grew up with a family who has done community service since they were young. She has a family member that is a military veteran, and her family takes part in services for the military community. At AHC, Wolford works with children after school just like she does while she is teaching. She thinks that it is a great way to see how children are during school and after school. Another thing Wolford discussed was not taking anything for granted. Wolford said, “If I have anything to take out of all my community service experience it would be, to be grateful for what you have and taking the experiences to help others.”
These members of the Marymount community show why participating in community service is so rewarding and so important in everyday lives, especially for people at a young age. From a coaches standpoint, it is very important for their athletes to stay one with their community. Not only does it show compassion but also the love they have for one another in each community. From an athlete’s point, it is so important to show the community that they care just as much as they do for anything else that they participate in.