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Faith & Service

Sports & Service

November 28, 2023

Read the profiles of three Liberty student-athletes who make serving their community a top priority.

Calli Doan, Track & Field

Redshirt senior Calli Doan has set numerous records as a Lady Flame. She currently holds three track & field individual program records for the indoor 1 mile (4:36.52), indoor 3K (9:24.67), and outdoor 3K steeplechase (9:52.15), as well as cross country program records in the 5K (16.15.1) and 6K (19:50.6). At the 2023 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in June, she finished 11th in the steeplechase finals, qualifying as a second team All-American.

Doan graduated with a master’s in human performance with a 4.0 GPA and was named Liberty’s first-ever ASUN Conference Female Student-Athlete of the Year. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in health sciences.

Throughout all of her success, Doan continues to place a focus on being a witness for Christ and leaving an imprint on her community through service.

“Running for Liberty, a school that stands for Jesus Christ, is a blessing because it gives you a platform that’s unlike any other, and people know when you have Liberty University on your shirt that you probably have some different beliefs. It makes it about a lot more than just the race,” she said. “It’s about having the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, this is why I’m running. It’s for the gifts that God has given me to glorify Him, not for myself.’ It’s something special, and I think having that motivation has enabled me to get as far as I have.”

Alongside her husband, Nick, a former member of Liberty’s cross country and track & field teams, Doan leads a middle school small group for Living Word Baptist Church’s youth group. She also serves on the church’s hospitality group and has facilitated outreach projects through prison ministry.

With Liberty, she has participated in multiple food drives and outreaches with her teammates, including the annual Trick Or Treat So Others Can Eat canned food drive and the Dollar Makes a Difference campaign for school supplies.

“The academic advisors and the people who work at the Liberty Athletics Center always have a bunch of different opportunities that they send out that really encourage the athletes not only to serve in a track meet among our own sport but also in the community,” Doan said. “It’s fun when the entire team goes and does something because it makes it not only a community outreach but also team development as well.”

Luke Eberle, Soccer

As a senior forward on the soccer team, Luke Eberle knows the importance of dependable shoes. For the past year, he has worked to provide new shoes to children locally, nationally, and internationally who may have never owned a pair.

Eberle volunteered with the nonprofit Samaritan’s Feet in Charlotte, N.C., in the summer of 2022 and was inspired by the testimony of Manny Ohonme, CEO, who grew up in Nigeria and didn’t receive his first pair of shoes until after he won a local basketball competition at age 9. Since 2003, Samaritan’s Feet has provided nearly 10 million pairs to children across 88 countries and hundreds of cities in the U.S.

“When I heard the story and testimony of Manny, it really touched me and made me realize how grateful I should be for what Liberty gives (athletes) and me personally,” Eberle said. “We get so many pairs of shoes throughout the year, and there are so many people in the world who don’t have a single pair. There are kids who can’t go to school because they don’t have shoes but need them for the school uniform, kids who can’t play sports, kids who run the risk of getting cuts on their bare feet that get infected and affect their health.”

Now, as a partner with the organization, Eberle has raised a little over $40,000 of his $100,000 goal and funded the distribution of around 3,100 pairs of shoes. In the spring, he connected with local churches in Ukraine to send 2,100 pairs, and he partnered with the Major League Soccer team Charlotte FC in December to distribute roughly 600 pairs of indoor soccer shoes to children from a largely low-income, immigrant neighborhood in Charlotte. This past spring, he joined 50 other Liberty student-athletes at R.S. Payne Elementary School in Lynchburg to give shoes to 200 students.

Even though he was not allowed to explicitly share the Gospel at most events, Eberle said there have been opportunities to plant seeds for Christ.

“Sports is a great avenue to get your foot in the door with kids, and shoes are too. But just giving shoes is not enough. Using my platform as an athlete is a way to meet a need while also sharing the Gospel with people. We can’t always directly speak about the Gospel, but we’re able to show the love of Christ through action.”

Jackson Vercellono, Hockey

In addition to shepherding teammates as a spiritual leader on Liberty University’s ACHA Division I Men’s Hockey team, graduate forward Jackson Vercellono is a graduate assistant in the Club Sports spiritual development office and serves as an area representative for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Hockey.

The past three summers, Vercellono has worked at FCA summer camps in Alexandria, Minn. Out of the 500-plus youth ages 6 to 20, Vercellono and his staff saw more than 100 led to the Lord this summer.

“The ministry was booming,” Vercellono said. “We have interns that come in every summer, and part of my summer role is being one of the guys who leads those interns and disciples them and helps them to counsel the players on the ice.”

One of his newest roles is leading a weekly Bible study remotely with a variety of FCA Hockey players now in the Juniors ranks.

“(Juniors hockey) is a challenging time because you’re just there to play hockey, and it’s a very secular environment,” Club Sports Assistant Athletic Director Reese Braband said. “Their identity and everything is wrapped up in their performance as a hockey player, and Jackson remembers that pressure. He reminds them that their identity is not in their performance, not as an athlete, but their identity is in Christ first.”

Vercellono completed his B.S. in Accounting and has started his MBA. He said he’s looking forward to serving alongside his teammates on their mission trip to Finland over Christmas Break.

“It is a great team I get to be a part of, and that is one of the main things that brought me to Liberty,” he said. “Stepping into that spiritual leadership role is such an honor, and getting to live it out by loving my brothers each day is awesome.” 

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