By Justin Maskus
The Joplin Globe
The Missouri Southern State University athletics programs have always prided themselves on their success on the courts and in the fields of play, but they are just as proud of what they do on their time away from their respective sports.
The MSSU athletic department, staff and players have logged more than 2,500 hours of community service to date this school year. Those hours do not even include one of the biggest events that Southern athletes and staff help at each year as Fred G. Hughes Stadium hosts the Southwest Missouri chapter of Special Olympics each year. That event will be Friday, April 19, this year.
Each year close to 1,000 Special Olympians invade Hughes Stadium and compete in events from the shot put, long jump, sprints and a softball throw. Every year, seeing the smiling faces on the young athletes far outweighs the five or six hours the Southern students may give up to help out.
“Giving back to the community that supports your teams is vital to the overall success of the program,” said Jared Bruggeman, MSSU athletics director. “Some may see it as taking time away from what they may have had planned for their day, but most find out that it’s a heartwarming experience, and they’re glad they did it at the end of the day.”
Southern athletes and staff have volunteered at many numerous activities throughout this year, including the softball team helping out in an Adopt-a-Highway cleanup, while the men’s track and field team worked to help unload a truck at the food bank We Care of the Four States. The men’s basketball team helped a local business move locations, and both softball and volleyball teams have read to local area elementary school students.
Women’s track and field and volleyball and football have helped with Special Olympics bowling and basketball games. The football team helped a local church serve food to the homeless, while also helping out with Operation Christmas Child with various churches in town.
The men’s track and field team helped move boxes and items at the Joplin History Museum, and the baseball team helped both a local business and a woman move from one location to another.
In the fall, the MSSU chapter of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee participated in its annual “Trick or Treat, so Others Can Eat” canned food drive. More than 80 student-athletes from every sport went home to home on Halloween, collecting canned goods to donate to a local food bank. In all, Southern collected 2,697 pounds that night and all of the food was donated to We Care for the Four States. The total was nearly 1,000 pounds more than the previous year's effort.
“It’s awesome to see the results of good old fashioned hard work and the genuine kindness our student-athletes show,” Bruggeman said. “Every year, we challenge our coaches, staff and student-athletes to do at least 10 hours each of community service and I’m very proud of the efforts that every individual has put forth.”
Justin Maskus is sports information director at Missouri Southern.