Rain and chilly temperatures made the second weekend of December feel like Christmas. Seeing Northwestern State student-athletes working in conjunction with the Natchitoches Area Jaycees made it feel that way as well. Led by their Student-Athlete Advisory Committee members (SAAC), NSU student-athletes helped raise almost half of the $4,200 worth of toys that were donated to children in and around the Natchitoches area as part of the annual Radio M*A*S*H (Make A Smile Happen) initiative.
A longtime partner with the Jaycees, dozens of NSU student-athletes from all of the school’s athletic teams saw first-hand the benefits of working a shift during the Dec. 7-8 toy drive.
“It was a blessing to see it, knowing the reason behind what we were doing,” said junior volleyball outside hitter Alexis Warren. “To see the amount of money and toys people donated for that reason was a tremendous feeling.”
Northwestern State student-athletes volunteered their time on a rainy weekend to solicit donations and sort toys, which helped brighten the holidays for nearly 600 children from 280 area families.
NSU student-athletes drove nearly $2,000 of the $4,200 cash donations raised by the Jaycees. According to Alan Pasch of the Natchitoches Jaycees, the Demons football team was responsible for the most money produced by Northwestern State’s athletic teams.
“It really means a lot because we had some guys stay back to help out,” said senior football offensive lineman Chris Zirkle, the community service coordinator for NSU’s SAAC. “I told them on short notice, and they took time out from going to see their families to help out.
“The feeling is indescribable seeing those kids smile and knowing we’re helping them enjoy the holidays a little more. We were cold out there, but we felt warm after we found out how much money we raised for them.”
The Radio M*A*S*H event is a longstanding partnership between the Jaycees and Elite Radio Group 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 local consumers.
For several years, NSU Athletics has provided more than 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 school whose student-athletes compile the most service hours, with NSU competitors more than doubling the second-place total.