St. John Fisher’s football players serve Rochester community - Catholic Courier
Football players move furniture in a classroom.

Football players from St. John Fisher University move furniture in a classroom at Brighton’s Seton Catholic School as part of a day of community service. (Photo courtesy of Seton Catholic School)

St. John Fisher’s football players serve Rochester community

Every August, like clockwork, the men on St. John Fisher University’s football team run a blitz.

This play, however, does not take place on the gridiron.

Rather, the annual Cardinal Community Blitz takes place in the greater Rochester community during the football team’s training camp. On the day of the blitz, the team’s players take a break from football and instead use their muscles to serve the local community.

Working in small groups, they visit local schools, agencies and nonprofits, where they are given a to-do list of tasks that would be time-consuming or difficult for those entities’ staff and volunteers to complete on their own. This year’s blitz took place Aug. 14, when groups of 10-15 players volunteered at 11 sites around the region, including Notre Dame Retreat House in Canandaigua, St. Rita School in Webster and Holy Cross School in Charlotte.

Blitz puts team’s ‘great manpower’ to good use

Players also helped at Seton Catholic School in Brighton, where a group of Cardinals moved classroom furniture and boxes of textbooks and carried a new smart board upstairs, according to Seton’s principal, Mary Kate Koecheler.

“Smart boards are so heavy, but it only took two or three of them, and they were able to carry it up to the second floor,” Koecheler said. “It’s incredible the amount of work that 15 young, strong football players can do in even just two hours.”

Seton has been a part of the Cardinal Community Blitz since it began about five years ago as a joint project of St. John Fisher University’s Office of Campus Ministry and its football program. The blitz is the product of a brainstorming session between Deacon Jonathan Schott, assistant director of campus ministry, and Chris Keyes, defensive coordinator for the Fisher Cardinals. The initiative grew out of a desire to get the entire team involved in community service as well as a way to keep the players busy during an NCAA-mandated day off from football during training camp.

“We don’t want them sitting around twiddling their thumbs, and we’ve got some great manpower. We’ve got 130 guys. That can really make an impact in a very short time,” explained Keyes, who coordinates the blitz with Deacon Schott.

University encourages students to make a difference

The university has long encouraged its students to make an impact, Deacon Schott added. It attracts community-minded students through its long-running Service Scholars Program, which awards significant scholarships to high-school seniors who’ve demonstrated a commitment to serving others, he said. The university’s motto, which it shares with the Basilian Fathers who founded the school, is “Teach me goodness, discipline and knowledge,” he noted.

“Sending these student athletes out, even for just a day of community service, four times during their athletic career via their sport does indeed teach them to be good people, to have the discipline to do it as part of their football regimen and to learn something about community. It really is trying to put into action what we say,” Deacon Schott said.

Football players also participate each year in St. John Fisher’s Teddi Dance for Love, which is a 24-hour dance marathon that raises money for Camp Good Days and Special Times, which is an organization that helps children and families dealing with cancer and other challenges. And each year, the St. John Fisher University Cardinals play against the SUNY Brockport Golden Eagles in the Courage Bowl, which also raises funds for Camp Good Days and Special Times, Keyes said.

Players benefit from their involvement in the Cardinal Community Blitz

Players’ participation in community-service activities benefits them just as much as it helps the entities they’re serving, according to Keyes and Deacon Schott. Seeing the difference they can make gives the players a sense of pride as they understand they are not simply football players, but also are members of the community, Keyes said.

The Cardinal Community Blitz also provides the players with leadership opportunities, as some players are chosen to lead small groups and must coordinate their transportation to and from the sites as well as how to accomplish their designated tasks at each site, Keyes said.

“It gives those guys additional opportunities to lead in a different setting than being on the field or being in the weight room,” he said.

Working together to figure out how to accomplish a goal off the field helps build bonds between the players, added Brennan Kammholz, a senior defensive lineman for the Cardinals.

“As collegiate athletes, we know we’re all pretty lucky to be able to play the sport we love. To be able to take a step back and help others is a pretty substantial thing that we value on our team,” he said.

Tags: Catholic Schools, Monroe County East, Newman Community, Sports
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