By Doug Ireland, Sports Information Director
As they wrapped up final exams and prepared to head home for the holidays, Northwestern State student-athletes recently 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, NSU competitors contributed time and energy to help the Natchitoches Area Jaycees donate nearly $4,000 worth of toys to hundreds of children in and around Natchitoches.
“I know there’s kids out there in need of Christmas toys and I want to give back to others who don’t get any,” said junior softball outfielder Kayla Roquemore, a Natchitoches native. “It touches me more because I am from here and see these kids every day. It touches my heart when my teammates, who aren’t from here, help out.”
The effort Dec. 8-9 included dozens of NSU student-athletes who spent several hours helping solicit donations and sort toys, working with the Natchitoches Area Jaycees, who help coordinate the RADIO MASH (Make A Smile Happen) initiative.
“It is a really good opportunity to give kids a good Christmas. It is also a good opportunity to put a smile on kids’ faces. Everyone in Natchitoches came together to give donations and everyone was happy to help,” said Nathan Jones, a junior pitcher on the baseball team.
“Thanks to those who donated and came together to make it happen for those who don’t have anything,” said Roquemore. “It’s a true blessing.”
Over $1,000 in cash donations were specifically generated by the student-athletes, nearly a third of the total of $3,600 raised by the Jaycees. The Lady Demon volleyball team led all sports, with softball close behind, said Alexis Guess, an academic coordinator for NSU Athletics who helped coordinate the participation.
RADIO MASH event is a longstanding partnership between the Jaycees and Elite Broadcasting of Natchitoches, which launched the initiative in 1996, and is staged in the parking lot of the local Walmart Super Store, a high traffic area for area consumers.
For several years, NSU Athletics has provided over 5,000 hours of community service annually assisting local, area, national and international causes. In 2015, 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 near the end of each year.