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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.- Caldwell University Athletics was selected as a finalist for the 2023 NCAA Division II Award of Excellence for their community initiative last year. The department represents the conference on the national level after receiving the 2021-22 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Community Engagement Award for taking part in The Jared Box Project in February 2021.
“We are very honored to be selected as a finalist for the 2023 Division II Award of Excellence,” said Assistant Vice President/Director of Athletics Mark A. Corino. “We are fortunate to have outstanding student-athletes and staff that contributed their time and efforts in support of this event last year. Our department will continue to find opportunities to continue to promote the Division II mission and philosophy as well as the core values of our institution. I am proud of our staff and student-athletes for receiving national recognition for their tireless work on this community service initiative.”
This year, 41 entries were submitted that exemplify the Division II philosophy, identity, community engagement, and student-athlete leadership initiatives. A total of 22 institutions were recognized for their creativity in advancing relationships within their communities. The winner, runner-up, and third-place honoree for the 2023 Division II Award of Excellence will be announced during the Division II business session on January 14. As a finalist, the department receives $500 for its support of the Division II philosophy and can use these dollars for future SAAC initiatives or other events to further support engagement on campus and in the community.
Supporting the mission of NCAA Division II, the Caldwell University Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), in conjunction with Student-Athlete Mentors (SAM), Caldwell University Breaks Stigma (CUBS), and athletic department staff members organized the completion of The Jared Box Project. The Jared Box Project is the assembly of small boxes of toys meant to entertain and put a smile on the faces of children in the hospital. Each box contained small gifts, toys, games, crayons, coloring books and fun activities selected for a specific age and gender. Each box also contained a personalized note from one of our student-athletes as well as some CU gifts.
“To being recognized on a national level for our community service project is truly an honor,”
said Senior Woman Administrator Heather Arabitg. “The Jared Box Project was an amazing opportunity to gather our student-athletes and staff to help give back to the community. The ability to put a smile on the face of a child who is in the hospital is a small act that has the potential to make a positive impact. We all enjoyed working together to build boxes and with our student-athlete nursing alumni who helped guide us in the right direction to give to Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center.”
The community service project was part of Caldwell’s celebration of Division II Day on Feb. 2, 2022 (2/22/22). The project began with Cougar student-athletes raising money to purchase both the toys and boxes. Caldwell’s SAAC put together a gift basket auction, collecting basket donations from each team as well as other departments on campus. The gift basket auction took place on Super Saturday (2/12/22), an Alumni event held on campus each year during a home basketball doubleheader. School alumni, as well as basketball fans from both CU and Chestnut Hill College, purchased tickets in support of the gift basket auction and CU was able to raise $1,613.
On Monday, 2/14/22, a group of CU athletics staff members went out to stores in the area and purchased toys and other gifts that were used to fill all of the boxes. On 2/16/22, a group of nearly 40 student-athletes, athletics staff, and staff from other departments on campus were able to assemble 76 boxes. Each box was assembled with a specific age group and gender in mind and a personal note was written and placed in each box. The culmination of the project was the delivery of the 76 boxes to Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center on D2 Day, 2/22/22. Members of staff and the CU Softball team made the delivery. Caldwell staff was unable to go inside and visit with some of the pediatric patients, but the school did receive feedback from both the hospital and a “shout out” on social media from one of the children who received a box.
Community Engagement is not just a part of the mission of Division II but it is a part of the Caldwell University Mission that its student-athletes truly love to embrace.