Over the past month-and-a-half, Liberty Flames student-athletes served the community in several ways.
Below is a description of recent events from February and early March in which the student-athletes have invested their time in.
Hop on Pop Reading Day | March 5 On March 5, Liberty student-athletes participated in the Fourth Annual Hop on Pop Reading Day at Yellow Branch Elementary School in Rustburg.
Student-athletes from the football, field hockey, women's lacrosse, volleyball, swimming & diving, track & field and men's basketball teams participated in the event, wearing costumes and Dr. Seuss hats and headgear for the afternoon.
The student-athletes spent time reading to Yellow Branch students in their classrooms. All Liberty Athletics teams pitched in as well, collecting over 3,200 books to donate to local elementary schools. The Liberty women's lacrosse squad led all teams with 905 books.
The event began in spring 2017 in memory of William "Bill" Beitz, the father of Liberty Senior Associate Athletics Director – Academic Affairs Kristie Beitz. Now in its fourth year, Hop on Pop Reading Day has grown each year. In 2017, more than 60 student-athletes read to the children of Yellow Branch and collected 420 books to donate to the school. In 2018, over 75 student-athletes came to the school to read, and Flames student-athletes collected approximately 2,600 books. In 2019, over 70 student-athletes participated, with over 3,000 books being collected.
Bill Beitz passed away in Nov. 2016. Liberty Women's Lacrosse Head Coach Kelly Nangle and assistant coach Nina Dunay attended the funeral and decided to begin a book collection in Beitz's honor, which turned into collection efforts by all Liberty athletics teams. Behind the scenes, Liberty Assistant Director for Academic Affairs Courtney Huffman and the rest of the Academic Affairs for Athletics staff began planning a day to have Liberty student-athletes deliver the books and read to Yellow Branch's students in Beitz's memories.
"My favorite memory with Hop on Pop is just seeing our student-athletes come out here and the excitement and joy on the students' faces in each classroom. For our student-athletes, they really utilize events like this to have a platform. As student-athletes, people look up to them. But when they're able to get out into the community, they can pour into others and can really help to train champions, just the mission of what our university is about. I think it's awesome that Yellow Branch Elementary School invites us in, that we're able to have this partnership. Having the opportunity to go out and serve others and pay it forward is truly what our athletics department and our student-athletes are about." Kristie Beitz, Senior Associate Athletics Director – Academic Affairs
"It's just another opportunity for our kids to really be all-in in something. If we're going to do it, we're going to be 100 percent. You have the opportunity to make a kid's day today. It's fun to see them invest themselves in telling the story. To see the time that they invest and how they make it fun for them and how the kids interact puts a lot of things into perspective." Kelly Nangle, Liberty Women's Lacrosse Head Coach
"Seeing the reaction of the kids when we walked into the building, they were surprised. When we were done, a little girl came up to us and gave us a hug. Having the opportunity to come out and do things for other people is cool. It's really important for us athletes to spread the word about our games while also serving other people at the same time." Amaya Williams, Liberty Volleyball
"My favorite part was going around classroom-to-classroom dressed as The Cat in the Hat and seeing the kids' facial expressions and how it brightens their day. For us to be able to come read to them and seeing the smiles and enjoyment on their faces is a good feeling knowing that they loved it." CJ Yarbrough, Liberty Football
"Coming here and seeing their faces light up when you say ‘I'm a Liberty athlete,' it's really cool to have that kind of influence and them looking up to you. The kids look up to you, so when you intentionally invest your time into them, that shows you're willing to go out of your busy schedule and seasons to come here and pour into them." Ashley Dykema, Liberty Field Hockey
"Bringing us all together and being able to bring out the joy in our hearts for reading and for that age group was really fun." Jahquez Durham, Liberty Men's Track & Field
"The book drive is very important to our team because it's very important to Ms. Beitz. We wanted to support her in this drive as much as we could. Reading is such an awesome experience, and we want kids to enjoy it as much as possible." Morgan Learn, Liberty Women's Lacrosse
"My favorite part was speaking Spanish with the kids. I'm really glad that we had the opportunity to give back to the community." Danny Cordero, Liberty Men's Soccer
"I love Hop on Pop because it's an opportunity to connect with the community. Ms. Beitz is someone who pours into our lives, and it's a way to honor her late father. I think it's so cool that her father's wish was to pour love, laughter and books into the community." Brooke Bryan, Liberty Women's Lacrosse
"The kids look up to us. We can be big brothers and sisters to them. This is very important, and what we do on the field is we're glorifying God. To be able to come out and represent him in other ways and spread positive energy to the community is great. My favorite part was seeing the excitement on kids' faces to do something good. We can inspire them to do the right thing." Erick Johnson, Liberty Men's Track & Field
Bedford Hills Family Fun Night and Black History Month Flames READ The Liberty football team attended Family Fun Night at Bedford Hills Elementary School on Feb. 6, playing educational games with the kids.
On each Friday in February, student-athletes from the football, women's soccer and track & field teams read to a different grade level at Linkhorne Elementaty School. They read books about Black History and educated the students on different events and themes.
"Love. Care. Serve." In addition to the above events , Liberty University student-athletes have embraced the concept of "pay it forward" by demonstrating love, caring for and serving the local community throughout the academic year. Using the NCAA athletic platform, Flames and Lady Flames student-athletes impact the lives of individuals of all ages in both public and private sectors.
During the 2018-19 academic year, Liberty's 550 Division I student-athletes provided over 11,200 hours of service through 118 community service events. Liberty student-athletes continue to serve the Lynchburg community and surrounding area under the initiatives of "Love. Care. Serve." on social media throughout the 2019-20 academic year.
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