The Catholic University of America

Jan. 23, 2012

Students Heed MLK's Call to Service

  9/11 service day

CUA's women's lacrosse team and baseball team were at the D.C. Armory on the National Day of Service to make care packages for military personnel.

Sophomore Meg O’Brien, a midfielder on Catholic University’s lacrosse team, likes to dance. So she jumps in with a group of strangers to learn the Wobble, a hip-hop line dance. Her image is projected on a big screen at the D.C. Armory and her teammates cheer.

The song ends and the DJ pumps an Adele song through the 80,000-square-foot arena. O’Brien, a business major from Philadelphia, runs back to her teammates who are working assembly-line style to put together care packages for U.S. military personnel, wounded warriors, veterans, and civilian first responders.

The women’s lacrosse team and CUA’s baseball team were part of a 10,000-volunteer effort at the Armory on Jan. 19, the National Day of Service. The event, Unite America in Service, was the largest single-site service project of the Martin Luther King Jr., and inauguration weekend in Washington, D.C.

The service event was organized by the Points of Light volunteer organization with donated items from Target. The goal of the event was to end the day with 100,000 packages that would be distributed by Operation Gratitude.

“This is such a great way to start the season,” said Nicole Laitner, a sophomore nursing major from Moorestown, N.J. “We have our first practice tomorrow and this helps us bond and get to know the freshmen.”
She added that the party-like atmosphere at the Armory “is so motivating. To see so many people here for the same cause just makes me want to do more.”

In addition to assembling care packages, the volunteers spent time writing letters to go with the packages. “I expressed my gratitude for their service, courage, and commitment. The people who will receive these packages put their lives on the line for us. I’m so thankful,” said Laitner.

Lacrosse players have fun as they make their way through the care-package assembly line. Together with the baseball team they were among more than 400 CUA students who volunteered at service events in honor of the MLK holiday.  

The lacrosse and baseball players were among more than 400 Catholic University students who signed up for the National Day of Service. In addition to sports teams, student clubs and service organizations were well represented. The students began their day at Caldwell Auditorium, where they saw a short film featuring the words of Dr. King. University President John Garvey shared his thoughts on making a difference through service and Rev. Jude DeAngelo, O.F.M. Conv., director of Campus Ministry and University chaplain, provided a blessing.

The students fanned out to multiple sites in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, at events sponsored by City Year, the National Park Service, the Capital Area Food Bank, Food and Friends, Caring Hands, and the Rock Creek Conservancy, among others.

At an event sponsored by City Year, the CUA men’s soccer team arrived at D.C.’s Burville Elementary School where they were in for a once-in-a lifetime surprise. As they rolled up their sleeves to make sandwiches, build bookshelves, and paint a basketball court, they quickly learned they would be joined by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

“It was pretty unbelievable,” said L.J. Whalen, a sophomore musical theatre major from Orlando, Fla., who was the student service leader for the Burville location. “We all got to shake the president’s hand and then he gave a short speech about education and volunteering. He quoted from Martin Luther King and he commended us for making a difference.”

At the Armory, the baseball and lacrosse players, who were working a later shift, just missed Vice President Joe Biden and his family, who had spent the morning on the care-package assembly line. But that didn’t dim their spirits. As their afternoon shift ended, Marc Hanna, a junior third baseman from Bloomfield, N.J., had a big smile.

“This was a lot of fun. I was proud to be part of an event that serves the military. And it was great to do it with my teammates. We represent the University on and off the field and we do it as team,” said Hanna.

“It’s important to walk the talk,” said Head Baseball Coach Ross Natoli. “Service is an important part of the University’s mission and in the athletics department, we embrace that. I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate that commitment than to be in Washington, D.C., participating in the Martin Luther King day of service on inauguration weekend.”

Participating in the National Day of Service in conjunction with the Martin Luther King Jr., holiday has become a tradition at Catholic University.

“It’s powerful to be one person among thousands in a national effort. It connects us to the D.C. community and to others throughout the country,” said Emmjolee Mendoza Waters, associate director of Campus Ministry and community service. “One-time service events like this have a lasting impact on the people and communities who are helped and they can plant the seed for a lifetime of service for those who come out and work their shift.”


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