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Blue Demons Make Blanket Statement About Mission of DePaul
Blue Demon student-athletes and managers made blankets during the athletic department's orientation program.

Blue Demon student-athletes and managers made blankets during the athletic department's orientation program.

Sept. 18, 2012

CHICAGO - The proverbial light bulb lit up over Jill Hollembeak's head during a campus leadership training session earlier in the year.

The speaker was DePaul Athletics Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto recounting her days as a Blue Demon student-athlete.

"When Jeanne was here, they didn't just talk about the mission of DePaul---they lived the mission of DePaul," Hollembeak said. "Listening to her speech, I began thinking that we do too much talking about the mission and we needed to do something about it."

A brainstorming session with fellow Athletics Academic Advising (AAA) team members Kate O'Brien, Tracy Moss, Kacie Wikierak and Nolan Hanson resulted in an enlightening change to the student-athlete orientation program.

AAA would have the 250 student-athletes and managers make blankets.

These handmade testaments to the mission of St. Vincent de Paul are being delivered this week to the children of the Marillac House, the homeless women at the Deborah's Place shelter and to the needy at the St. Vincent de Paul Center.

In one hour and 15 minutes on Sept. 4th, the Blue Demons made more than 120 blankets.

"All of us in Triple A were just humbled and excited by this," Hollembeak said. "To actually see DePaul's mission in action was really inspiring. For those 75 minutes, they got to live it rather than talk it.

"The student-athletes jumped up and dove right in. They did not hesitate for a moment.

"You still have to explain the meaning behind the mission. But to actually do it, that's when learning takes place. We're going to continue blanket drives at future orientations."

Women's basketball standout Katherine Harry went through her fourth orientation program.

"For a lot of upperclassmen, there was a feeling like: here we go again," Harry said. "When we found out about the blankets drive, everyone got pretty excited. This was so different from past orientations.

"The whole program had a different feel to it, and I liked it. It's good to change things up and not be stagnant.

"Community service is such an important part of how we're wired at DePaul. This was an opportunity to realize how fortunate we are and that we can give back in a positive way."

Harry made a blanket with softball player Samantha Dodd as others followed their lead in teaming up with student-athletes outside their own program.

O'Brien, Moss, Hollembeak, Hanson and Wikierak were successful in combining two themes into orientation---socially responsible leadership and living the mission of DePaul.

"We disseminated all the information our student-athletes will need and also did something that will make a difference to people in our community," Hollembeak said. "Orientation has a reputation of being a little long. The kids were so excited to do something instead of sitting and listening. We played music the whole time and made it a fun environment."

As a closing ceremony, Ponsetto and Blue Demon coaches passed out St. Vincent de Paul pins to each student-athlete and manager.

"The pin ceremony was Kate O'Brien's idea," Hollembeak said. "It was something to symbolize each student-athlete and manager's commitment to excellence.

"We got Jeanne and the coaching staff involved, and Father Dennis (DePaul President Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M.) read the script. By accepting the pins, the student-athletes accepted the challenge of striving for excellence in every area of their lives."

The significance of the pins registered with Harry.

"Our athletic department has great leadership from Jeanne and our coaches, and we can model how we lead based on what they do for us," Harry said. "It was pretty cool. I thought each coach would hand out a few pins to their team.

"But when everybody got a pin, it showed that all of us can be a leader. You may not be a captain on your respective team, but you can still be a leader in the community."

Hollembeak enjoyed recalling the highlights of "Orientation 2012."

"No one person deserves the credit for any of this," Hollembeak said. "DePaul deserves the credit. Its mission inspired all of this, and we had the privilege of carrying it out."