November 2, 2010
Blazers Buddy Up with Youth
VALDOSTA -- More than 100 Valdosta State University student
volunteers will pair with 80+ at-risk youth to cheer on the Blazers
during the 2 p.m. football game against West Georgia on Saturday,
Overwhelming interest from VSU students enabled the sixth annual Blazer Buddies program to invite a record number of children to participate in the day of tailgating, goody bags, food and fellowship. In 2005, Richard Lee, assistant dean of students for student conduct, partnered with founder of area youth organization Heart2Heart, Diane Howard, to sponsor the event designed to foster positive relationships and memories for children who need affirming influences in their lives.
“Of 20 kids, I would say about one comes from a two-parent home. Their parents are struggling with the basics and don’t have time to make a fuss over their children all that much,” said Howard, who taught English at VSU for 18 years. “This program allows us to show these kids how special they are -- even for an afternoon. Getting to go to the game is a reward for students who have made great progress in their lives by getting good grades and the like.”
Officials from the Boys and Girls Club of South Georgia, New Horizons children’s homeless shelter, Heart2Heart and His Hand Ministry identified students to participate in the rewarding program. The day of the game, youth will pile into vans destine for Drexel Park, where they will meet up with VSU student volunteer “Buddies” and chaperones at 11:30 a.m. to mingle and enjoy a tailgate lunch. The Dean of Students Office put together goody bags for each student and sponsored the tailgate. Alpha Lambda Delta Freshmen Honor Society will provide each guest with a free T-shirt commemorating the event. The pairs will walk to the Blazer Walk to cheer on the players as they enter the stadium.
VSU Department of Athletics provided the youth with complimentary tickets at the 50-yard line. After the game, they will meet with players, cheerleaders and Red Hots for autographs and photos on the field. Lee said the event could not have grown from 30 students the first year to more than 80 without the dedication of student leaders from a cross-section of campus. Student groups involved include: freshmen honors society Alpha Lambda Delta, Heart-to-Heart, X-Change Ministries, the VSU Student Chapter - National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, various NPHC-Fraternities and Sororities, VSU Black Student League and ROTARACT Club, a student branch of the Rotary Club International.
“Anytime we do something for someone else, we get the warm and fuzzies. The event introduces these students to young people with whom they can build relationships and make a difference of a life long reaching out to others who could use a little love, a little word of encouragement,” Howard said. “The event means so much to these kids. I was out at Walmart the other day and two former Blazer Buddy participants came up along side me and pushed my cart with me. They remember us and the time we give to them.”
For more information about the Blazer Buddies event, e-mail Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 229-333-5409. For more information about Heart2Heart, a Lowndes Associated Ministries to People, Inc. (LAMP) organization, go to its Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Heart2Heart/124755150878770 .