From April 7-13, the NCAA celebrates Division III Week -- seven days devoted to the accomplishments of the student-athletes in D3. The goal of the celebration is to raise awareness of Heidelberg and other D3 schools across the nation.
This story is the second of a six-part series highlighting
the student-athletes at Heidelberg University. It was written
by Logan Burd, a senior English major from Tiffin.
For more information on Heidelberg's D3 Week activities,
visit the D3 Week homepage.
On Saturday, March 22, Heidelberg University's Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) traveled with over 50 collegiate athletes from various teams to Bowling Green High School to assist with the annual statewide basketball tournament for Special Olympics Ohio.
The Heidelberg student-athletes assisted with shooting, dribbling and passing drills being run by the Special Olympians, escorted Olympians to and from events and helped award the Olympians medals.
"It was a truly awesome experience," said SAAC member and football player Austin Hunter. "I never wanted to leave."
For the past several years, NCAA Division III and the Special Olympics have enjoyed a partnership. By teaming up, the NCAA and Special Olympics has fostered a mutual learning experience for all involved.
The event in Bowling Green was transformative for SAAC members and their advisor, Corey Fillipovich.
"As a coach you are always worried about wins and losses," said Fillipovich, the director of football operations. "But this day puts into perspective that life is not all about the wins and losses. ... The benefits that each student-athlete gained cannot be measured."
Christina Neal, a SAAC member who plays soccer and basketball, added, "The event staff that we volunteered with absolutely loved our help."
In addition to her service with Special Olympics, Neal has volunteered around the community as well, helping area children by serving as bus monitor and helping local schools teach art.
Throughout his DIII athletic career, Hunter, a starting offensive lineman, has also volunteered at United Way, the Humane Society and at a local assisted living facility.
Reflecting on his experience as a Special Olympics volunteer, he added, "I feel that our entire volunteer staff as well as myself benefited greatly. I think every volunteer genuinely enjoyed working with the athletes and their families."
One of the hallmarks of NCAA Division III athletics is the dedication of developing responsible leaders and citizens.
"You have males and females who play the game only because they love their sport," said Fillipovich, who played football at OAC rival Muskingum University. "They are not here simply because of a scholarship or to play professionally. D3 student-athletes have the passion and desire to become well-rounded individuals."
Hunter encouraged high school athletes to consider a Division III school. He summarized the DIII experience. "You aren't just known for athletic achievements. "People recognize you for the things you have done to better the community."
Neal has always been proud of her choice to attend a D3 school.
"Have I regretted it? Honestly, not once," said Neal, a native of Tennessee.
Heidelberg University and the SAAC is currently developing plans to bring a Special Olympics event to campus, to further the relationship of service they began last month.