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Triathlon Partners with United Way to Give Back to the Community

Oct 23, 2020

Valley of the Sun United Way | Get Involved | Despite Pandemic, Sun Devil Athletics Continues to be Champions in the Community

TEMPE, Ariz. – Sun Devil Triathlon is making the most of their unexpected offseason, giving back to the local community that has supported the program since the beginning. 
When the Collegiate Triathlon Coaches Association (CTCA) and USA Triathlon canceled the 2020 Triathlon Fall Championship season this summer, Sun Devil Triathlon Head Coach Cliff English made a vow.
"We are going to make this into a positive for us at ASU," Coach English remarked. "We will continue to develop the athletes physically and technically as well as work on community engagement and opportunities for student-athletes to explore internship possibilities and other academic options as we won't be traveling with competition."
Sun Devil Triathlon is doing exactly what their coach had hoped back in July, by not only training harder than ever to defend their title, but also by contributing in the local community. The program partnered with Valley of the Sun United Way (VSUW) this past weekend for their Book-in-a-Bag and Encouragement Cards project.
"We expressed interest to our administration to do some physically-distanced community service and (Associate Athletic Director) Bill Kennedy presented us with this opportunity," Sun Devil Triathlon Assistant Coach Nicole Welling recalled.
After hearing some of the concerning statistics about education in Arizona, the Triathlon team knew this was an area they could make an impact. One in five Arizona high-school students are not graduating in four years. In 2019, more than half of Arizona third-graders didn't pass the state reading test. Students from low-income households tend to have less access to quality books and reading resources than their affluent peers. These are issues that Valley of the Sun United Way is trying to eliminate with several of their powerful initiatives. 
"We feel that this community is so supportive of our team, so we do our best to give back whenever possible," Coach Welling mentioned. "Since we are not on the road competing this year, we are trying to take the opportunity to participate in physically-distanced service opportunities whenever possible." 
That is where the Book-in-a-Bag and Encouragement Cards project came into play. The Valley of the Sun United Way gathers and delivers new and gently used books to students in Title I schools in Arizona, so they can build their library at home. They need volunteers to perform several tasks, including sorting the books by grade level. With materials provided by VUSW, the Sun Devil Triathlon team used ordinary arts & crafts materials to create a gift bag for each book, packing the books into a gift bag along with a list of reading activities. They also created handwritten notes to encourage local students, a personal touch that has the potential to make a big difference in the lives of youth in Arizona.

"Whenever the team participates in a community service activity it is an important time to reflect on how we can give back and help shape our community," Coach Welling observed. "Although our service projects are small, they are eye-opening in the sense that the team is given new perspective on issues they may not have been aware of before or were aware of but didn't necessarily know how they could help."
Coach Welling recognizes that projects like this are just as beneficial to the student-athletes as they are to the community they are helping.
"We hope that during their short time here at ASU they can see the good that service to the community can do and this will carry on throughout the rest of their lives."
Since 1925, Valley of the Sun United Way has unified diverse partners, donors, businesses, nonprofits, government, and faith-based communities to build a stronger Valley for us all. United Way belongs to our community, so we seek community input on the most pressing issues, then we bring people, organizations and companies together to proactively solve them. Right now, many people seek trustworthy insights and information AND they want to help, but they don't know how. United Way makes it simple for people and organizations to be part of the solution; to come together to take ACTION. For more information on Valley of the Sun United Way, visit their homepage. Click this link for more information on how to volunteer.
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