Collegiate athletic programs get widespread support from communities all over the country. How does the Keene State athletic department get involved in their own community?

Phil Racicot, Athletic Director, said that the surrounding community is one of the biggest supporters the athletic department has. 

Racicot discussed how the athletic department feels that they need to give back to the community because the community has given them so much. This is an important part of who we are as a department and I’m very proud of the high level of commitment our student athletes have in the community,” he said.

Racicot added, “In many ways it is about giving back because athletics participation has given [student athletes] so many things to share…We always strive to be a valued member of the community.”

Softball head coach Carrah Fisk Hennessey is an advisor for the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). As stated on the Keene State athletics website, the mission of the SAAC is “to enhance the total student-athlete experience by promoting athletic, academic, and social opportunities for all student-athletes; protecting student-athlete welfare; fostering a positive student-athlete image; providing a forum for student-athletes throughout the campus, conference, and NCAA; encouraging the spirit of camaraderie and sportsmanship, while maintaining the tenants of the NCAA Division III philosophy: DISCOVER, DEVELOP, DEDICATE.”

Fisk Hennessey discussed that, although the Covid-19 pandemic has made things challenging, the SAAC still gets involved in the greater Keene community however they can. “Each fall we collaborate with the Special Olympics of New Hampshire (SONH) and volunteer at the SONH state bowling tournament held here in Keene. This year we were able to have a ‘Poster Pump Up Party’ where we learned the names of each SONH bowling athlete and made posters for the bowling alley to cheer the SONH athletes on,” she said.

Fisk Hennessey continued, “We are proud of our fall ThanksGIVING Bingo Board fundraiser that benefits The Hungry Owl, Hundred Nights Shelter, and The Keene Community Kitchen (over $3,000 in 2020 and over $2,200 in 2021). We have also created a partnership with Keene Parks and Recreation (‘Partners in Play’) and run the city’s K-1 youth basketball program for six consecutive weeks each winter, in addition to hosting smaller sport-specific coaching and skills clinics for our greater Keene community.”

The tie that SAAC has with the community is never ending. “In the past we have hosted ‘Go Red!’ events, celebrating women’s heart health with support from the American Heart Association. We’ve conducted a ‘Pasta Love’ (pass the love) pasta drive for the Keene Community Kitchen, read books to local elementary students during ‘I Love to Read Week’ each spring and have enthusiastically supported campus student initiatives such as the Student Support Network, Mentors in Violence Prevention, Crafternoon and more! One additional point of pride is our work with MCVP, bringing Katrina Nugent and her educational team to campus to provide quality training and workshops around topics specific to Title IX,” Fisk Hennessey said. Additionally, she said these examples are “just the tip of the iceberg.”

The SAAC is “a sounding board for many campus and community constituents,” as Fisk Hennessey put it, and they strive to progress in their leadership and service throughout Keene State and the surrounding community. 

One of the many connections in the community that the SAAC has made is with the city of Keene’s Parks and Recreation office. A representative from their office said, “We love the partnership we have created with the KSC SAAC, it’s a win-win for the community. KSC athletes get a chance to inspire and teach our K-1 Basketball program the skills and drills that will hopefully begin their love for athletics.”

They continued, “It’s important for us to have this connection to help build community relations for the college and for us. We want our participants to learn skills from student athletes who have dedicated their lives to their specific sport. In doing so, they become great ambassadors for the college to the community. We hope that our kids end up in the seats cheering the teams on, and we hope that we can offer meaningful community volunteerism for all the teams.”

The representative concluded, “Coach [Fisk] Hennessey reached out a few years ago to make the relationship happen. As a former player, now coach, she knows the value to our community as she grew up playing and participating in our programs. It drives home the relationship piece that the college is part of the community, and as a community, we value the college.”

 

For more information about the SAAC, visit https://keeneowls.com/sports/2020/12/6/saac.aspx

 

Piper Pavelich can be contacted

at ppavelich@kscequinox.com

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