Feb. 10, 2014
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Before the `Big Game' on Super Bowl Sunday, Villanova student-athletes organized an event to benefit the local community. Prior to stuffing their faces with wings, pizza and chips like most Super Bowl viewers, the athletes were partaking in one of their favorite hobbies, Ping Pong, when the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee or SAAC hosted their fourth annual Ping Pong Tournament at the Jake Nevin Field House.
Each student-athlete donated $5 or more to compete in the tournament with the proceeds benefiting the "Each One Counts" foundation. The athletes competed in pairs in an elimination style bracket consisting of over 300 players from all sports in the department.
"The tournament gets better and better each year as we continue to set our fundraising goals higher and then surpass those goals," said Julie Todd, a women's lacrosse standout and SAAC Secretary. "But I think the most valuable thing, aside from the large amount of money we are able to donate, is the ability the tournament has to unite the athletic department."
Over the past two years, SAAC has fundraised over $3,100 to help "Each One Counts" and the children the organization directly impacts. Their mission is to help ease the physical pain and suffering of terminally ill children who are receiving pediatric hospice or palliative care by funding complementary pain management therapies.
Brian Harrington, a former Wildcat Basketball player and VU graduate, established the nonprofit organization based in Pound Ridge, N.Y. His foundation raises money for alternative pain relief therapies that most insurance does not cover such as massage, pet, art, music, temperature or light therapies. These practices have demonstrated an ability to relieve pain without the nausea or lethargy that often comes with the use of narcotics.
Four years ago Harrington discussed his story with the student-athlete body and left a lasting impression, especially on SAAC co-president and volleyball outside hitter Carly Edwards.
"My freshman year Brian Harrington came to one of our monthly SAAC meetings and spoke with us about his up and coming organization known as the "Each One Counts" foundation. Through his time speaking to us at Villanova we began to brainstorm how to make his event, the now annual Ping Pong Tournament, exciting and engaging to the student athletes," Edwards noted. "Over the past four years, I have seen the tournament grow in size and have also had the opportunity to experience student-athlete's eagerness for the event as it gets closer and closer to the end of January."
Todd and Edwards, along with fellow senior Remington Pope were tasked with the organization and execution of the fundraiser that brings hundreds of student-athletes together. These SAAC leaders take pride in this tournament and believe it does a tremendous job assisting others in a fun and enjoyable way.
"The reason I decided to get involved was the great outreach SAAC has with student-athlete community involvement," added Todd. "This is where we get to make the biggest impact as an athletic department, even though it will never go in the record books. It has also been a great privilege to see more of the athletic department getting involved in what we are trying to do here at Villanova."
This marks one of many functions the student-athlete leaders at Villanova have been involved with over the past year. Before the holiday break, the student-athletes participated in the Villanova University Day of Service back in September 2013, and gathered Christmas gifts for the North Light Community Center in Manayunk and City Team Ministries in Chester, Pa. during the holiday season. Additionally, the Women's Basketball, Women's Soccer, and Men's Track and Field teams all took part in the Villanova University MLK Day of Service in Jan., helping to coordinate mini Let's Move Camps for school students from Philadelphia.
"Through my involvement in SAAC I have learned the value that comes from uniting as an athletic department to not only support one another athletically but also to come together to serve and give back to the local community," said Edwards.
As for the winners of the Ping Pong Tournament, men's tennis players Tim Abbracciamento and Michael Rosengren will battle football's Emeka Ndichie and Vinnie Gatti in a rematch of last year's final. The championship bout is set for halftime of a basketball game later in the season.
Men's Lacrosse senior midfielder Remington Pope...
On what makes the Ping Pong Tournament so special:
"I think as student-athletes, we have a responsibility to the community beyond Villanova. Villanova University's core values are largely centered on service and helping others. The Ping Pong tournament allows for a perfect opportunity for all student-athletes to join together for a great cause. Helping raise funds for Childhood Hospice is about as good of a cause as I can imagine and to get to have fun with my fellow student-athletes in the process, makes it all the better."
On the tournament outcome:
"The tournament could not have gone better. Now that we have a few years under our belts, we have figured out the best way to get every team in and out without much waiting around. With multiple teams in the building at the same time the tournament took on a carnival feel. Music filling the floor along with arts and crafts and snacks gave the tournament a relaxed community feel. The bracket had some exciting match-ups and some definite upsets. And on the fundraising front, we had our best year ever."