It’s the fall of 2013. The head coach of the Castleton State College women’s soccer team, Chris Chapdelaine, gets home after a long day of work and begins sifting through his mail where he finds a flier; it catches his attention. It told a story of a woman who spent 180 days with her twins at the Ronald McDonald house in Burlington. Chapdelaine is instantly reminded of his family and their own experiences, inspiring what would be a great tradition between the Ronald McDonald House and the Castleton women’s team.
As community involvement, the Spartans will take a day to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House in Burlington doing a variety of tasks. Chores, fundraising for the house, and of course hanging with the patients are among examples of what they do.
This is one of many examples how Castleton athletic teams are constantly immersing themselves in the community and continually working at increasing their involvement.
“Volunteering isn’t something you teach,” Chapdelaine said. “It needs to be cultivated.”
Castleton President David Wolk keeps the college’s community efforts and involvement at the top of his list.
“(The community) is one of the primary reasons for making investments in sports and the arts,” said Wolk. “I knew from my experience, athletics much like the arts can galvanize a college.”
Since he took the reins of the college 14 years ago, the athletic programs have gone from fewer than 100 student-athletes and 11 or 12 varsity teams to nearly 500 student-athletes and 25 varsity teams, according to Wolk.
Some of the other community involvements with Spartan varsity teams have been events or organizations of great variety.
The Eric Douglas Dettenrieder Memorial Fund was formed in memory of a boy who had the passion for skiing and would teach terminally ill children how to ski. The men and women’s basketball teams have done and continue to do, events with the EDD Memorial Fund in teaching basketball drills/skills to children with any form of disability. Players and coaches use adaptive approaches with the participants to meet their physical needs, enabling them to perform the drills.
Men’s head coach John O’Connor brought “Grassroots Soccer,” a non-profit or 501 c (3) to Castleton when he took over in the fall of 2013. The organization’s mission is to “use the power of soccer to educate people and stop the spread of HIV.” The men’s soccer team hosts a 3v3 “Lose the shoes” (barefoot) soccer tournament to raise money for Grassroots soccer. All the proceeds go to Grassroots Soccer.
These are some more of the organizations teams in the Castleton athletic programs have been working with: March of Dimes (women’s soccer); Wounded Warrior Project (men’s hockey); Learn to Skate Program (women’s hockey); Castleton Mentoring Program (multiple CSC teams); The Blanket Project (softball); Game Day (baseball), and many more.
The Spartans are having a huge impact on the community members and the experiences with each other have been memorable ones, to say the least.
Director of the EDD Memorial Fund and sister of Eric Dettenrieder, Gretchen Owens, describes one child’s experience with the EDD.
“I remember watching one particular boy who was shy,” Owens said. “His mother reached out to me and said her son will always remember this for the rest of his life. He always looks at his medal.”
For some coaches, like head baseball coach Ted Shipley, the message to send is quite clear.
“I’ve always felt playing college baseball is a privilege. It’s all about giving back,” said Shipley.
Spartan athletes, both former and present, have thoroughly enjoyed their experiences within the communities near and far.
“I get a sense of fulfillment. It’s nice taking an hour out of your week to help someone out,” said junior Spartan football player Luke Quesnell.
Carnelius Green, a senior forward for the Spartans men’s basketball team chuckled as he recalled one of his personal experiences; one boy came up to him and compared him to THE Michael Jordan. Though he was gateful for the comparison to MJ, Green finds the time with the children and participants during these events most meaningful.
“You can tell they really enjoy being here; that’s most memorable for me,” Green said.
Jenna Bostwick is graduating this May and played four years for the Castleton State College women’s soccer team under Chapdelaine. Bostwick, like Quesnell, was really moved emotionally by her experiences at the Ronald McDonald House. She described an experience with one of the patients who was 5 or 6 years old that put things in perspective for her:
“I remember just seeing the girl for the first time. She was sitting at the counter eating breakfast. She had no hair on her body at all, so it was like, ‘wow!’ I have to be thankful for the genes and everything my parents gave me. I’m so lucky to be standing here, rather in the position of this poor little girl,” Bostwick said.
Many of these experiences are remembered as happy and emotionally moving. However, sometimes community involvement may be less as enjoyable in the event it memorializes the loss of a loved one.
The head coach of Castleton men’s lacrosse, Bo McDougall, partnered up with in-state rival Norwich University to host a 24-hour rock-climbing marathon Feb, 21 and 22 in honor of former Norwich Cadet, Connor Roberts; Connor died in June of 2014. He is the brother of former Spartan hockey and lacrosse player Ben Roberts, who graduated in May of 2014.
“When you’re at the calling hours for Connor and you see both teams there, you kind of realize there’s on-field rivalries and then there’s bigger things in life,” said McDougall of having the rival schools joined in a cause.
McDougall has been making efforts to have his players do forms of community involvement that is on a more personal level for the players. He hopes in taking this approach, players will be even more invested, having something that really resonates with them.
“It’s great to have two rival teams come together for a cause and we’re really excited about that,” McDougall said. “That’s what community service is about.”