Friendship Walk unites students, kids to raise money for Athletic Department

Tanya Marsh

Tanya Marsh

Swimmers, football players, soccer players and more gathered Sunday afternoon in the name of community involvement and department fundraising for a three-mile Friendship Walk.

Julie Ackerwold, annual giving officer of the Athletic Department, explained what the event was all about.

“The Friendship Walk is all of our student athletes from all of our 20 varsity sports collecting pledges and going on a three-mile walk,” she said.

“We invited grades one through five to participate with the athletes.”

For many of the athletes, this interaction with the children was the best part. Justin Landis, a sophomore football player, said he was pleased “just to get out and hang out with the kids, show our appreciation for their supporting us ? get[ting] to know some little kids.”

Sophomore swimmer Camren Hillewaert agreed.

“You get to interact with the community,” she said.

“And after the walk we played football with the little kids?that was the best part.”

Ackerwold said the walk is beneficial for both the college and elementary students.

“The elementary kids look up to our student athletes, and it’s nice for our student athletes as well as the kids.”

This admiration was also noted by Brad Erickson, the men and women’s swimming and diving coach.

“I think [the walk] shows that the athletes want to continue to build relationships within the city and the community,” he said.

“It’s just another chance for [young] people to have interaction with people I think they would consider role models.”

Of course, interaction with children was only half of Sunday’s goal.

There was also money to be raised.

Ben Fast, a junior football player who is president of the Student Athletes’ Advisory Council, explained this dual function.

“We’re raising money and then giving back to the community by going on a Friendship Walk with the kids,” he said.

He said this money was raised through pledges collected by the athletes.

“They wanted to raise $100,000 ? that’s each athlete getting $300, and I’m sure we passed that goal, and the proceeds go to the athletic department,” he said.

Not just one sport will benefit from the walk, Ackerwold said.

“Proceeds from the walk go to enhance all of our sports,” she said.