By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State's student-athletes are much more than dazzling runners, slam-dunk artists and chip-ins on the golf course.
While the city of Manhattan cheers their every move on the field/court/course/diamond/track, the Wildcats are now trying to do their best to give back to the Little Apple through a variety of community service projects.
The current example of that is K-State's "Adopt-a-Family" program through the Flint Hills Breadbasket organization.
"The student-athletes of the athletic department have adopted five or six families and then picked up their wish list from the Flint Hills Breadbasket," said Kristin Waller, K-State's Life Skills Coordinator. "We tried to get each of our student-athletes to donate $5 toward the project, plus they also go out and buy the gifts, wrap them and deliver them."
Waller said that $1,565 was generated from the Wildcat athletes, with that amount divided evenly among the families K-State adopted. This year each parent and child of each family will receive around $110 in gifts.
"In past years we would shop for the presents and wrap them, but then leave them at the Flint Hills Breadbasket," said Waller. "This year we're excited to be able to have our athletes deliver them directly to the families and see where their efforts are going."
Waller said the hot items on the lists of children were pet pillows, Play Dough, Barbies, John Deere toys, action figures, Legos, puzzles and books. For the parents, she says the majority of the items are very practical - sheets, pots and pans and basic clothing.
"I had a 3-year-old boy and he wanted a Black and Decker tool set," said Jack Sachse of the men's track team. "It was fun because I don't have any small relatives, so it's been a while since I've had any interaction with someone that age."
Proudly pointing to the presents he personally wrapped, Sachse offered, "My mother is a good wrapper, so she taught me a few tricks through the years."
Jason Schulte of the men's golf team gave a "definitely not" answer when asked if he was an ace wrapper.
For his little boy, Schulte picked up some "... little toy dump trucks, clothes and puzzles. We found some pretty neat things."
On her personal efforts, Ali Pistora of the women's track team said, "My girl wanted anything with John Deere on it, which was sort of hard to find. I thought it might be easier being in Manhattan, but I had to look a while to find a little hooded sweatshirt with John Deere on it."
Waller added with a laugh, "One lady did ask for a Yoga workout DVD, plus you can tell when the parents help their kids with their list because you see socks and underwear, plus other basic clothing that kids probably wouldn't put on a list."
Heading up the community service projects are the 25 student-athlete members of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
The major project this fall was the Cats For Cans food drive during the Texas football game when 5,425 pounds of food was collected, plus $4,100 in cash.
Projects this spring will be a "TP DRIVE" in which toilet paper, paper towels and trash bags will be collected at the men's basketball game with Nebraska on Feb. 2, and the women's basketball game against Kansas on Jan. 29. These items will then be taken to the Manhattan Emergency Shelter.
K-State will also have its annual weekend with the Special Olympians, plus there will be a Hygiene Hijack project where student-athletes are encouraged to take the miniature bottles of lotions and shampoos collected during their team travels, which will go to the Manhattan Emergency Shelter and the Women's Crisis Center.
"These projects mean a lot to us because we have a community that supports us during our events, so this is just an effort to give back," said Schulte, who serves as SAAC president.
K-State also goes hands-on with Manhattan's schools. There is a "Walking With The Wildcat" program through Eisenhower Middle School where student-athletes are paired with children coming from a rough home life, or are struggling academically, and will spend time with them working on homework, or just visiting.
There is also a "Read to Achieve" program through Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School where team members go to the school and read books with the young kids.
"The NCAA has designated several areas for student-athletes to have that well-rounded opportunity at their school," said Waller. "We've identified areas where they can earn points and then we'll have a team winner of the Wildcat Cup at the end of the year."
Those areas are personal, academics, athletics, career and service. Student-athletes can accumulate points for their individual sport squad by attending speeches, making the honor roll, attending career luncheons and workshops, and taking part in the mentioned service projects.
Part of the overall program is to also develop an appreciation of their Wildcat teammates in other sports than their own.
"We had a group of baseball players attend the equestrian competition with Oklahoma State, and we had others go out to the rowing competition and the Colbert Invitational men's golf event," said Waller. Laughing, she added, "We were afraid some of them might be too rowdy at the golf tournament, but they were well-behaved and had a good time."
Student-Athlete Advisory Committee
Baseball - Matt Giller, Blair Debord
Men's Basketball - Victor Ojeleye, Martavious Irving
Women's Basketball - Shalin Spani, Kelsey Hill
Equestrian - Erica Mackiewicz, Tiana Shelton
Football - Tysyn Hartman, Alex Hrebec, Adrian Hilburn
Men's Golf - Roff Geubelle, Jason Schulte
Women's Golf - Elise Houtz, Paige Osterloo
Rowing - Amanda Weishaar, Hanna Wiltfong
Tennis - Petra Chuda, Nina Sertic
Men's Track - Jack Sachse, Cory Boulanger
Women's Track - Ali Pistora, Lauren Garrot
Volleyball - JuliAnne Chisholm, Lauren Mathewson