Loyola basketball players volunteer at Care for Real, emphasize community-building through sports

Loyola Ramblers players get amped up in a pregame huddle. The team’s volunteer efforts in the fall brought the team closer together. (Photo courtesy of Sophia Nolan)

By Tristan Tucker
Medill Reports

Loyola Ramblers women’s basketball players, who volunteered this fall for Care for Real, said they feel inspired to continue volunteer efforts after their collegiate careers end.

Several players spoke about their experiences recently in interviews. Nonprofit Care for Real helps individuals overcome food insecurity. Senior forwards Emma and Sophia Nolan, and freshman guards Mallory Ramage, Whitney Dunn and Kira Chivers all spent time working with the organization for a class and helped people meet essential needs. By using their athletic network of contacts, all the players were able to volunteer and have a proactive impact on the community around them.

“I think (volunteering) is important, especially for student-athletes because we’re given these scholarships and we’re blessed to go to college for free,” Sophia Nolan said. “It can serve as an eye-opener.”

Care for Real has locations in Edgewater and Rogers Park, where the organization provides food, clothing, pet food and other services, according to the organization’s website.

In each location, the organization is designed to help individuals in need in a tailored way. Those who come to Care for Real for supplies are able to fill out a form where they can indicate the kinds of items they need, such as food for their families or health care products.

The organization set up multiple stations where volunteers can help retrieve and organize the items that individuals need. According to Sophia Nolan, the organization provided the means for volunteers to get said items.

“It was just a really cool experience overall, and the way we got to do it together just brought us closer as people,” Chivers said. “We’re obviously in the Chicago area and community, but you don’t really see people struggling (with food insecurity_. Not that you’re not aware of it, but when you’re put in those situations where you can help … (it) makes you want to help people more. This makes me want to get more involved in whatever community I’m in, in the future.”

Being a college student is time-consuming, the players noted. On top of that, the members of Loyola’s women’s team had strenuous practices and games last semester, making it hard to find time to volunteer.

With only five days off to work as volunteers during the entire semester, the athletes worked to energize one another, even though they had to work long days.

“It’s (my) first year of college so it was just a lot,” Ramage said. “But after the first time we went, I was like, ‘Oh, I really enjoyed doing this,’ so it was easier to go and do something you enjoy doing.”

According to Dunn, meeting the people she was helping made her want to keep getting out there, even if it was difficult to find the time. Dunn added that one of her favorite memories is of one lady who would always ask about the next time she would see the players.

“When you do work like this and you’re seeing the impact you’re making, it’s like wherever you go, you want to make an impact in whatever way you can,” Chivers said. “Just make the most of whatever opportunities are presented in front of you. So I think it is very beneficial, and I think that’s a thing that we should all have a part in wherever we’re at.”

Tristan Tucker is a Sports Media graduate student at Medill. You can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.