By Julia Cinquegrani, Managing Editor ||
While many college students cherish Saturday mornings as one of the few days they can sleep in, brothers of Chi Phi Fraternity have been spending their Saturday mornings volunteering with children at the local Lancaster YMCA.
From September through November, members of Chi Phi volunteered on Saturday mornings to coach soccer clinics at the YMCA for children ages three to five. This initiative was led by Graeme Blackman ’14, Chi Phi’s community service chair, who wanted to get the fraternity more involved in specific service projects.
“Chi Phi has participated in most of the philanthropy events around campus, but we didn’t really have anything of our own to set us apart,” Blackman said. “A lot of the brothers in Chi Phi are athletes, so I went to the local YMCA and filled out a volunteer application.”
Blackman thought the interests and skills of the brothers would align well with the needs of the YMCA, which especially wanted student coaches for their children’s sports teams and clinics. YMCA Youth Sports Director Ron Stief was very excited by the prospect and believed the fraternity would be valuable in both teaching the children the fundamentals of the sports and serving as good role models.
Three Chi Phi brothers participated in running the soccer clinics consistently for the three months, and other brothers rotated volunteering based on their availability. The volunteers used drills and games to teach the children the fundamentals of soccer, and coached a total of approximately 60 children. For most children, this was their first exposure to the sport.
Besides the Chi Phi volunteers, there were only two YMCA staff members organizing the soccer sessions.
“Without us the YMCA would have been under a lot of stress,” Blackman said. “Trying to get a lot of three to five year olds focused on a specific thing for a given amount of time is tough without a certain numbers of hands
When the soccer season ended in late November, Stief expressed his appreciation for Chi Phi’s volunteer efforts. Currently, Blackman, along with Connor Moriarty ’16, and Scott Rapoport ’16 are working with Stief to establish an official relationship between Chi Phi and the YMCA, which would make the volunteering annual.
In the meantime, Chi Phi has continued volunteering at the YMCA, and began coaching basketball teams from mid-January to mid-March. The YMCA had a large influx of children ages five and six who were interested in playing basketball, and without the Chi Phi volunteers the YMCA would have been short on coaches and forced to turn families away.
Blackman, Jack Arpert ’14, and Sam Kind ’14, along with other brothers, took on teams of approximately 10 children each. The teams held practices one night during the week and had games every Saturday.
“We sat all the kids down and told them we needed to come up with a team name,” Blackman said. “One of the kids said ‘Let’s be the Venus fly traps and our opponents can be the flies and we can devour them!,’ and after that we immediately fell in love with the kids.”
Blackman said he is sad to see the basketball season end and will especially miss the relationships he has built with the children. However, the Chi Phi volunteers will not have long to miss them, because they will probably be helping with baseball clinics which will be starting in the coming weeks.
“I think some of my favorite things have been seeing the level of enthusiasm and excitement kids have at that age,” Blackman said. “When we tell them about a new game or drill they’re so excited to be playing and interacting that we leave that hour of practice feeling rejuvenated. And you can go to the library after and study and have a level of energy you probably would not have otherwise, because the kids fill us with so much energy.”
According to Blackman, some of the more challenging aspects of coaching the children has been simply engaging them with the activities for an extended period of time.
“With kids, it’s never going to be 100 percent focused, but if you can teach them one or two things that they can take away and remember once they’ve left the gym and are having fun, then our job is done,” Blackman said.
In addition to volunteering at the YMCA, Chi Phi’s other upcoming philanthropy events include their 10th Annual Chi Phi 5k. The proceeds from the event, which will be held around campus on March 29, are donated to support cancer research. Chi Phi is also partnering with Alpha Phi Sorority to raise money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a charity that supports child cancer research.
Overall, Blackman said the experience of working with the children has been extremely rewarding and he would like to see more F&M students become involved with volunteer efforts throughout Lancaster City.
“Working with kids is something we all really like, so it’s been a great experience for all of us,” Blackman said. “I would encourage other students to reach out to organizations, like the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs, especially because a lot of these organizations are understaffed. F&M is full of people who are great models and could make a real difference.”
Sophomore Julia Cinquegrani is the Managing Editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.