Students and children came out Saturday night, Nov. 10 to play gym games, win prizes and support the Men’s and Women’s Basketball team at the 10th annual Kids’ Sports Night and Hawks Madness pep rally in the Athletics and Wellness Center.
Parents came and dropped off their children or waited outside the gym while their children, ages 5 to 10, played kickball in the gym, competed in relay races and did Zumba in the dance studio. The children played in half hour increments with college athletes, then switched to the next sport.
“Kids Sports Night is an event that gives our local community of kids an opportunity to spend two hours with our student-athletes playing sports and activities,” said Keith Kenney director of Wellness & Recreation. There were 75 children who attended the event, according to Kenney.
Athletes from the New Paltz Hawks basketball, soccer, baseball and field hockey teams organized and played games with the kids.
“For a lot of these kids this is their only opportunity they really get to play and see a different sport,” said Michelle Valle, a second-year political science major and basketball player. “It can encourage them to want to continue for higher education.”
Andrew Dinardo, a first-year business major, who is on the baseball team, was helping with the event.
“My coach told me about this, so I thought it was good to show the kids a good time and have fun with them, and give back to the community,” he said.
The bleachers were packed with students, children and their parents for the Hawks Madness pep rally which occurred later that night.
“This was an opportunity to get some students together to kick off the men’s and women’s basketball season,” said Jamie Seward, the Women’s basketball coach.
With music playing, the children went onto the court with the basketball teams and practiced their shooting.
Every member in the audience received a ticket with a number on it. Those whose number was called got to compete with and against members of the Hawks basketball teams. One game paired an audience member with their choice of a Hawk player to shoot 3-pointers against another audience member with his or her chosen Hawk.
Other games included racing against the clock to shoot as many baskets from half-court as possible, among others. In total, at least 10 gift certificates for local eateries and businesses were awarded to participants.
“I think anytime you have a chance as a young kid to hang around and play with college athletics it’s fun and it’s a win win,” Seward said. “It’s good for the kids and it’s good for our kids as well, the bigger kids. I think they have a good time doing it and realize it’s a very small sacrifice to give a couple hours and see how much fun these kids are having.”
Kenney said the college benefits from these events because they create a great relationship with the community.
“I know they are very happy with the event, it’s a great community service project,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for our athletes to give back to the community that supports them. It also hopefully helps local kids wanting to come to our games to support our teams and our summer camps.”