CRESSON - When the presidents and athletic directors of the ten institutions comprising the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference gathered last week for the league's annual spring meeting, a pair of local colleges were among those recognized for the extraordinary community service efforts of their student-athletes.
Of the eight service awards presented to conference members, Mount Aloysius and Penn State Altoona accounted for six of them.
During the 2012-2013 academic year, AMCC student-athletes, coaches and staff members contributed more than 5,000 hours collectively to helping others in both local and national activities. The conference recognized individual schools for their efforts by awarding a gold, silver, and bronze status in three community service categories: One-Time Event, Ongoing Activity, and Array of Activities.
In the category of One-Time Event, Mount Aloysius received a gold commendation for the women's volleyball and men's and women's basketball teams' sponsorship of Pink Out games in support of the fight against cancer.
The teams partnered with the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center and other college departments for the events. They obtained 291 signatures from women and men who took the Pink Pledge, and they raised a total of $2,044 for the Breast Care Center through the sale of t-shirts and basket raffles.
Mount Aloysius also took bronze in the same category for the men's and women's soccer teams' participation in the Red Card Cancer marathon, held April 6 at the Altoona Summit Tennis & Athletic Club.
The event consisted of non-stop soccer action for 12 consecutive hours on the Summit's indoor field, and it raised more than $700. It also laid the framework for a continued relationship with the American Cancer Society, which is hopeful to turn the event into a 24-hour marathon next year.
In the category of Ongoing Activity, Mount Aloysius received a bronze commendation for the Mercy Youth Initiative program and its participation in Project Bundle Up.
The Mercy Youth Initiative is an outreach mentoring program designed to facilitate a student's eventual college attendance. The Mount Aloysius Student-Athlete Advisory Committee provided games and team building activities for 18 seventh and eighth grade students from Penn Cambria Middle School over the course of the year.
All 18 students, selected by their school to participate, would be first-generation college students from their families. The program created a unique mentoring opportunity, as 62 percent of all Mount Aloysius students are also first-generation college enrollees.
The Mounties baseball team volunteered its time helping underprivileged children from the Johnstown area pick out winter clothing, donated from local stores. This is the fourth consecutive year for this project. During this time, over 70 different student-athletes have donated over 500 hours to this campaign.
Mount Aloysius President Tom Foley commended the student-athletes, coaches and administrative efforts that foster community service. "We are delighted that student-athletes from both institutions have done this good work," he said.
Mount Aloysius received gold for the overall category of Array of Activities.
In all, Mount Aloysius student-athletes volunteered an astounding 1,937 hours of service to the community. Its 13 intercollegiate teams participated in 18 different projects. Additionally, there were over 100 projects in which student-athletes were participants through other campus groups and organizations. Most of these projects were within a 50-mile radius of the campus, but some were as far away as Guyana, Jamaica and China.
Penn State Altoona athletics took the gold in the Ongoing Activity category for its work with the Special Olympics of Blair County.
Spearheaded by the campus' SAAC, Penn State Altoona's involvement with the SOBC increased during the 2012-2013 year. SAAC members, other student-athletes, team coaches, and athletics staff members combined to take part in 27 volunteering dates with the SOBC. They assisted with the group's sports of basketball, bocce, bowling, swimming and volleyball.
This ongoing community service began in October and lasted through April. Penn State Altoona volunteers coached, cheered, and instructed Special Olympics athletes in the five sports.
"The goal that was put in place by our SAAC was met this school year. The difference made in the Special Olympics athletes' lives can be seen in the joy they obtain from getting to interact with our volunteers," said Penn State Altoona SAAC Advisor Billy Clapper.
In the category of One-Time Event, Penn State Altoona was awarded the silver for the Special Olympics-benefitting Zumba concert.
The Zumba Concert, which was the first of its kind held on campus, was held on April 8 in the school's Adler Gym. Members of SAAC, the cross country team, and women's soccer team joined with staff members to host a two-hour Zumba fitness concert that raised money to benefit the SOBC. The workout event included a full stage and lighting to create a party-like atmosphere for the enthusiastic group of participants.
"The project brought together Penn State Altoona students who wanted to join in a fitness event and have a great experience," said Clapper. "The concert received amazing feedback from both the students and instructors."
By the end of the year, Penn State Altoona's student-athletes volunteered in 41 different activities.