EUGENE, Ore. - When the local Boys and Girls Club faced financial complications, several Oregon athletes teamed up to help save the establishment.
The O Heroes, a University of Oregon student athlete volunteer program, has a rich history of service in the Eugene community.
Lacrosse players Maggie Kovacs, Jessica and Jana Drummond, and Oregon linebacker Michael Clay were instrumental in the Boys and Girls club getting back on its feet.
“They took it personally when we closed,” said branch director Adam Vozzola. “I remember getting a few phone calls from some of the O Heroes saying, ‘Don’t worry, the club will be open in two weeks! I know somebody who can help.’”
Some athletes become mentors for the youth, and others provide positive role modeling that may be lacking in the lives of some Club members.
Sometimes just the presence of a high profile athlete can be enough to create a positive impact.
“These athletes are people in our community that are kind of celebrities” said Boys and Girls program director Becky McKenzie. “These kids get that chance to meet somebody.
"When (Oregon running back) Kenjon Barner came in, kids just lined up to get his autograph...they were so excited.”
“It’s special. A lot of times when I talk to kids, I tell `em ‘I’m no different than you. I just play football on a college team’” said Barner. “Being able to develop a friendship or a relationship, it’s special.”
The O Heroes have also worked with Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics, and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
The academic and athletic requirements for UO athletes can be strenuous, but for many, time in the community is a valuable investment.
“I wish I had something like this growing up where I lived,” said Barner. “Having the opportunity to be out there, showing my face, getting involved with the community. It’s just pure joy for me.”
Story from the University of Oregon Sports Media Workshop