As we built new relationships with local nonprofits in Baton Rouge, one stood out as a student-athlete favorite – The Miracle League. For those unfamiliar, The Miracle League gives children with any type of disability the opportunity to play the game of baseball.
Since 2016, Athletes for Hope student-athletes have looked forward to Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Cypress Mounds.
This is a great opportunity to give back to the culture around us and we enjoy every second of it.
Gavin Dugas, LSU Baseball
Our involvement has not only brought joy to the young Miracle League athletes but to LSU and Southern University student-athletes as well. Serving as buddies, protecting players during the game, and cheering them on has been a rewarding experience while contributing to a positive environment for all participants. Our 2019 & 2022 AFH Partner of the Year participant stated, “It’s been unbelievable. The Miracle League players love it when athletes come out to join them.”- Charlene Lauman, Miracle League- Volunteer Coordinator for the 2022 fall season.
Everyone should go watch or volunteer at the Miracle League! It’s truly a blast to be out there with those kids because all they want to do is have fun! That’s what the game is all about. Each and every single one of them puts a smile on my face. I’m already looking forward to my next game because they are so much fun!
McKenzie Odgen, Southern University Softball.
AFH Baton Rouge teams made weekly visits to their friends over at Cypress Mounds- never missing a game during the entirety of the fall 2022 season. It wasn’t long until their dedication and commitment to their community started getting noticed on a larger scale. Local news station WBRZ made a trip out to Cypress Mounds to watch our student-athletes from LSU in action.
Following LSU Baseball’s visit in October, they posted to their social media platforms “Thank you to the Miracle League at Cypress Mounds for having us and we can’t wait to see y’all at Alex Box this season!”
We are looking forward to returning for the spring season to support our buddies at The Miracle League.
In recognition of International Youth Day, AFH had the pleasure of coordinating an opportunity for athletes with Type 1 Diabetes to come together to share their “origin stories” and diabetes journeys with the Children at Children’s Diabetes Foundation Colorado. Having a chronic illness can take its toll on a young person’s mental health.
Children with diabetes battle with depression and thoughts of suicide longer than medically healthy children their age.
Despite the mental and physical toll diabetes takes on children, much like the AFH athletes, the children at the Children’s Diabetes Foundation have learned to view their diabetes as a superpower.
Whether diagnosed as a child, teenager, or adult our athletes shared similar experiences when it came to their management of Type 1 diabetes. As we know, practice and exercise are very important tools for athletes’ success. For athletes with Type 1 diabetes practice is not just on the field, practice includes finding a routine that works for their insulin management; what and when to eat before a game; how much and how often to take their insulin during games, and of course what their go-to pre-game snack is so their blood sugar doesn’t get too low.
Ultimately Type 1 diabetics practice listening closely to their body and this is where their ‘superpower’ comes from- being disciplined and consistent with taking care of their bodies. AFH athletes encouraged kids to continue to exercise as it has become a positive tool in their mental health battle against Type 1 diabetes. Above all, our athletes could not stress enough how important loving yourself and having a support system is to one’s mental health battle with diabetes.
“In any 18-month period, 33% to 50% of people with diabetes have diabetes distress.”
Every superhero, like every athlete, needs a team. In addition to working closely with their doctors and healthcare professionals, the athletes recognized that they needed to include their teammates, coaches and friends in their journey. Having the patience and courage to talk about their diabetes and educate their friends and team made it easier for those around them to support them in their journeys. Raising awareness and deconstructing misconceptions through education on diabetes not only helped these athletes gain the trust and support of their sports leagues, but has also made it easier for more athletes with diabetes to join professional sport teams.
Based on the amazing session we had with Children’s Diabetes Foundation, AFH has put together a superhero profile for the amazing athletes that took the time out to join the session and inspire others like them.
Seattle Sounders Assistant Coach
Origin Story: Diagnosed at 26 years old in the prime of his professional soccer career in England
Super powers: Discipline, professionalism
Favorite pre-game snack: Gummy Bears
Motto: Be your own best friend!
Mental health hack: You have to be able to talk through things
Former hockey player, Dental student
Origin Story: A former professional Hockey player and currently a qualifying dentist and diabetes researcher, Anissa was diagnosed when she was 8 years old.
Super powers: Gratitude and Being Purposeful
Favorite pre-game snack: Peanut butter
Motto: Smooth seas don’t make good sailors, so give yourself a pat on the back!
Mental health hack: Exercise, loving yourself, and checking into yourself regularly
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker
Origin Story: Diagnosed at 13 years old while going through puberty
Super powers: Positivity, discipline, and consistency
Favorite pre-game snack: Fruit snack
Motto: I’m still going to do what I said I’m going to do!
Mental health hack: Educating those around you so they know how to support you
As Diabetes Day (November, 11, 2022) approaches, AFH looks forward to sharing all the work these athletes and other athletes with Type 1 Diabetes are doing to advocate and raise awareness for children and athletes with diabetes.
While the players we met at the 2022 Senior Bowl are getting ready for the next stage of their careers, some of them took time out of their busy schedules to bring smiles to the faces of kids who need it most.
These visits featured: 🏈 Perrion Winfrey of Oklahoma 🏈 Cameron Thomas of SDSU 🏈 Leon O’Neal of Texas A&M 🏈 Braxton Jones of Southern Utah 🏈 Matt Waletzko of North Dakota 🏈 Sterling Weatherford of Miami University 🏈 Jordan Silver of Arkansas 🏈 Dameon Pierce of Florida 🏈 Tycen Anderson of Toledo 🏈 Chris Paul of Tulsa
“The visit was so much fun! Hands down the highlight of my week!”
Chris Paul, Tulsa Football
It’s always an honor to work with athletes at any point in their athletic journey, but it’s extra special to witness the next generation – days before one of the biggest moments in their lives – make an impact in such a meaningful way.
Unsurprisingly, the feedback we received from our hospital partners was nothing short of amazing.
“I just wanted to send you a quick thank you for helping recruit our amazing guests today. Matt, Jordan, and Sterling were so fun and really great sports. We were all truly impressed with their acting, drawing, and sculpting skills! Please let them know how appreciative we are that they took the time to play a game with us and answer some questions [about playing football].”
Leslie Scott, Child Life Specialist at Children’s Wisconsin
Another thank you to the Senior Bowl for making AFH a part of their offerings to players in February. We like to think it goes a long way!
MSU Spartans Celebrated March’s National Reading Month
by Meredith Norris
Looking back at a recent service opportunity, AFH University member, Michigan State created a virtual March is Reading Month library that reached more kids than they could imagine.
In previous years, Spartan student-athletes would go into local elementary schools and read children’s books to numerous classrooms. Conscientious of the current climate, MSU decided to create a virtual library in the hopes to reach more children. Michigan State student-athletes recorded themselves reading children’s books and uploaded their video to a virtual library that was sent to various elementary classrooms.
This virtual library was shared with over 400 teachers, Speech Language Pathologists, librarians, literacy coaches, etc., reaching 47 schools in 19 school districts around the state of Michigan. The addition of this virtual library, allowed videos of MSU student-athletes encouraging and promoting the importance of reading to affect over 8,000 young children!
We are so proud of the continual drive to conduct service opportunities, despite the circumstances. Great job Spartans!
“I participated in March is Reading Month because I remember how much I loved being read to as a kid, and I remember how it made me feel loved and cared about. It felt good to be able to let other kids experience that too, and I’m sure it was extra special for them get read to by Michigan State Athletes.”
Parker Jamieson, Men’s Golf
“I participated in the March as a reading month because giving back to kids is one of my favorite things to do. I remember when I was in middle school I idolized MSU athletes, and to give back just a little bit of my time to make some kids days was totally worth it for me.”
Rebecka Poljan, Women’s Volleyball & AFH U March Student-Athlete of the Month