NSU student-athletes make a difference in Jaycees’ toy drive

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Before wrapping up final exams and heading home for the holidays, Northwestern State student-athletes took time to make a difference in the lives of local children and their families while continuing NSU Athletics’ remarkable community service tradition.

Led by their Student-Athlete Advisory Committee members representing all 14 NCAA Division I sports, NSU competitors contributed time and energy to help the Natchitoches Area Jaycees donate nearly $24,000 worth of toys to more than 540 children in and around Natchitoches.

The effort Dec. 10-12 included 90 NSU student-athletes who spent more than 11 hours helping solicit donations and sort toys, said David Greene, president of the Natchitoches Area Jaycees, who help coordinate the RADIO M*A*S*H (Make A Smile Happen) initiative with Elite Radio Group.

About $3,500 in cash donations were specifically generated by the student-athletes, he said. Demon football players led the way by raising almost $1,000. A total cash amount of $7,627 coupled with more than $16,000 worth of toys donated in the three-day effort.

Jaycee Alan Pasch, the Jaycees coordinator of this year’s event, said the involvement of NSU student-athletes was a key factor in one of the most successful RADIO M*A*S*H toy drive to date.

“We have never had the outpouring of support from the community like we did this year,” he said. “The athletes took it upon themselves to compete with each other on who could collect the most money at the drive.  It was great seeing them use some friendly competition to support a great cause.  The athletes’ direct impact on the drive was around $3,500 collected at the doors.  We then used that money to shop for more toys to supplement some of the bags.

“Not only did they raise money, but they also were able to really interact with the community.  I saw many of them stopping and talking with shoppers, a few taking photos with children of the shoppers, and some of them even helping folks get buggies to their cars,” said Pasch. “It was a great team effort.”

The RADIO M*A*S*H event is a longstanding partnership between the Jaycees and Elite Broadcasting of Natchitoches and is staged in the parking lot of the local Walmart Super Store, a high traffic area for area consumers.

Student-athletes from all of NSU’s 14 sports were involved, along with coaches and staff members, said assistant athletic director for student-athlete development Carrie Greene, who is the advisor for NSU’s SAAC. A total of 123 hours of community service was performed, she said.

For several years, NSU Athletics has provided over 5,000 hours of community service annually assisting local, area, national and international causes. Last spring, Northwestern State won the inaugural #SouthlandStrong Community Service Award presented to the Southland Conference member whose student-athletes compile the most service hours, with NSU competitors more than doubling the second-place total.

The event also served as Northwestern State’s effort in the Southland Conference’s “Southland Gives Back” community service initiative, annually commemorated around the end of each year.