Crown Athletics: More Than Just the Game

By Maddie Rennpferd

One act of service can go a long way. For Crown College athletes, one of the most loving acts is to host the Special Olympics event each year on campus.

For six years in a row, Crown College has partnered with Western Wings, a Special Olympics organization serving the western suburbs of Minneapolis. Crown student athletes host the game in the Wild Athletic Center on campus. This year’s event takes place February 24 (for poly hockey) and again on March 10 (for a basketball camp).

Western Wings is open to young boys and girls ages seven and above. The athletes enjoy playing poly hockey and basketball with the kids during their time at the game. The Olympians are from the Area 11 Delegation of Special Olympics Minnesota. The event is hosted by the Crown College Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).

Luke Herbert, the Head Coach of both the men’s soccer and basketball teams at Crown, is excited by the opportunity to serve the community by hosting the event.

“Being able to team up with Western Wings has been such a unique experience for our student athletes,” says Coach Herbert. “When one of our athletic teams sees a need, the thought is always, ‘we can help with that,’ and the Western Wings event is no different.”

It’s not just the coaches who look forward to events like this. Students also enjoy volunteering their time to put a smile on the Special Olympians’ faces. David Mcintosh, a junior football player at Crown, appreciated the opportunity to volunteer.

“I love helping out with the Special Olympics event. It is something I look forward to every year,” says Mcintosh. “It is very encouraging to see how sports can bring joy and happiness to anyone who plays.”

Through their acts of service, Coach Herbert hopes his team will learn the importance of serving others because Christ first served us. Service is about more than just helping others; it’s about pointing to the love of Christ. Sharing this Christ-inspired enthusiasm with the Special Olympic athletes is one major reason Crown athletes help out with Western Wings.

“When we talk to recruits and our current players, we tell them our number one goal is that they would leave Crown prepared to lead a Christ-centered life,” says Coach Herbert. “We want to make the name of Jesus great.”

Serving in this way always trumps the actual score after any game (even though that’s still important for every athlete). Crown prepares its athletes to be well-rounded. It’s important to the coaches and staff that the athletes realize the game won’t last forever, but bringing glory to Jesus’ name is eternal.

“It’s affirming to know that organizations like Western Wings are willing to ask our teams to help time and time again,” says Coach Herbert. “It is never just a one-time serving opportunity, and that’s really affirming to me personally.”

Athletes are also heavily involved in many other serving opportunities.

“The Tim Orth Memorial Foundation is an outstanding organization that provides funding to local families who have children with major health issues or terminal illnesses,” says Coach Herbert. “We’ve been participating in their Jam the Gym event in Glencoe, MN, for several years in different capacities. And Northern Pines is a church camp located in Park Rapids, MN, and we spend a full work day in the spring helping with numerous jobs around camp as the staff begins to prepare for the busy summer of programming ahead.”

The softball team is also active in serving ministry all spring. They participate with organizations like Feed My Starving Children (food packing), Freshwater Learning Center (reading, arts, and crafts), Presbyterian Homes (senior living), Second Harvest Heartland (food sorting and packaging), the Waconia Food Shelf (sorting and stocking shelves) and the world relief organization MATTER (handling and packaging medical supplies).

Cearra Dulaney, a Graduate Assistant Coach for the softball team, says the experience of serving makes a big impact on the athletes and those they serve. The softball team spends an entire week (called H.O.P.E. Week, which stands for Helping Others Persevere and Excel) serving and volunteering in the community.

“Volunteering is always such a great bonding experience for the team,” says Dulaney. “It gives us an opportunity to engage with the people in our community, help those who are less fortunate than we are, and build relationships with the future generation. It is also time for our girls to spend building relationships with each other off the softball field, which helps to improve our team chemistry as well.”

There are many ways students can get involved in serving opportunities around Crown and invest in the lives of the future generation. From volunteering at Feed My Starving Children to hosting Western Wings, the serving opportunities are endless and open to all students. Anyone can help serve in the community and bring glory to Jesus’ name.

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