Athletics

Amherst Wins National Community Service Award

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AMHERST, MA – The National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators (NADIIIAA) has announced the recipients of this year’s NADIIIAA/Jostens Community Service Awards. Amherst College has been recognized as the winner of the One-Time Project/Activity category for hosting the Friends of Jaclyn Race/Walk during the 2008-09 academic year, and will be honored at the NCAA Convention in January.

Co-sponsored by the NADIIIAA and Jostens, the awards program is intended to recognize the many contributions Division III student-athletes regularly make to their campuses and local communities. The winners this year in each of the three award categories are Amherst (one-time project/activity), UW-Eau Claire (array of projects/activities) and York College (ongoing project/activity).

In addition to presenting commemorative trophies, the NADIIIAA and Jostens will make a $1,000 contribution to the general scholarship fund at each of these institutions. The awards will be presented at the Jan. 16 NCAA Convention in Atlanta, Ga. Several schools that were not winners in any of the three categories will receive “Awards of Merit” and “Honorable Mention” recognition.

Amherst is the first NESCAC school to be recognized by the community service awards program since Middlebury College received honorable mention for an ongoing project/activity during the 2002-03 academic year. NADIIIAA and Jostens first recognized community service award winners in 2002.

"We are honored and proud to receive such an important award," says Suzanne Coffey, Amherst College's director of athletics. "Striving to make a difference in the lives of others is core to the mission of Amherst College. All of our teams share this award with the entire Amherst community."

Amherst has been involved with Friends of Jaclyn—an organization that pairs pediatric brain tumor patients with sports teams across the country—since 2007, when men's soccer head coach Justin Serpone and his team adopted Michael Lanosa. “If Amherst is supposed to be comprised of some of the best and brightest student-athletes, we need to be leaders at the macro level as well,” Serpone says. “All schools want to win national championships, but we also want to be one of the best at serving the community.”

Serpone helped bring the Friends of Jaclyn Race/Walk to Amherst College with three main objectives in mind: raise money for Friends of Jaclyn, improve the quality of life of pediatric brain tumor patients, and bring the Amherst community together with collegiate teams that are involved with Friends of Jaclyn.

The inaugural Race/Walk took place Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008 and involved roughly 300 student-athletes from various New England colleges and universities. An Amherst varsity team or coach was involved in every aspect to ensure the event’s success. Once every week for two months, a Friends of Jaclyn committee consisting of Amherst student-athletes and coaches gathered to plan for the Race/Walk. Members of the men’s and women’s soccer teams sold t-shirts, handled registration duties, and delivered food and drinks to campus. Cross country and track and field head coach Ned Nedeau and his runners outlined the 5-kilometer and 1-mile courses for participants. Members of numerous Amherst varsity teams served as markers throughout the course in order to direct participants. More than 100 Amherst student-athletes ran the 5-kilometer race or walked the 1-mile course.

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Roughly 300 student-athletes gathered at Amherst College for the inaugural Friends of Jaclyn Race/Walk.

The event’s objectives were indeed met. The inaugural FOJ Race/Walk raised $6,500 in donations and entry fees, all of which went to Friends of Jaclyn. Varsity teams from Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Connecticut and Williams colleges, as well as the University of Massachusetts and University of Connecticut gathered on campus for the day’s events. Two hundred twenty student-athletes, coaches, parents and casual runners lined up for the 5-kilometer race, with another 75 taking part in the 1-mile walk.

After participants finished the race/walk, they joined Friends of Jaclyn children at the finish line for a presentation of medals to the top finishers. Medals were presented by the inspiration of the organization, Jaclyn Murphy. After closing remarks were made by Serpone, the Amherst men’s lacrosse team used the opportunity to officially adopt 19-year-old Justin Hinds in the presence of Denis Murphy, the Friends of Jaclyn founder. Hinds and his mother joined the Amherst lacrosse team in Alumni Gymnasium, where head coach Tom Carmean stressed to his student-athletes the significance of being a part of their new teammate’s life.

The Race/Walk was considered a success not only because of the money raised and the number of participants, but also because of the effect it had on Friends of Jaclyn. “Having a brain tumor is nothing,” Hinds told his new teammates after being adopted. “I might have to go through treatments, but I have so many people to help me. I have you guys. You’re already my friends, and I don’t even know all of you yet. Thank you for everything.”

Denis Murphy also acknowledged the effect Amherst’s Race/Walk had on Friends of Jaclyn, noting that it had exceeded his expectations. “Watching a child suffer is absolute torture, but you student-athletes give parents like me a gift. This foundation is about love, support and friendship—not about which teams are adopting which kids. We’re here to say ‘thank you.’”

Amherst hosted a second Friends of Jaclyn Race/Walk in September of 2009, bringing even more collegiate sports teams and student-athletes to campus. To date, four of Amherst’s varsity teams have adopted children through Friends of Jaclyn. Serpone continues to research ways for Amherst College to become more involved with the organization.

"Friends of Jaclyn is an amazing organization," says Coffey. "It is incredibly humbling getting to know children who are struggling with unimaginable challenges. We all benefit greatly from their generosity, warmth and perseverance."

More information on the NADIIIAA/Jostens Community Service Awards will be posted on the NADIIIAA website. A photo gallery from the inaugural Friends of Jaclyn Race/Walk is also available.