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Badgers 'Shave to Save' with help of children's hospital patients

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- Photo Gallery: Shave to Save

Several Badgers lost their hair on Thursday in the hope of helping gain awareness for the patients battling childhood cancer at the American Family Children's Hospital.

Eight members of the UW football team put their hair in the hands of patients from the children's hospital, losing their locks in the name of advancing a cure for cancer.

In just over an hour's time, LB Ethan Armstrong, WR Lance Baretz, OL Kyle Costigan, WR Connor Cummins, OL Ryan Groy, WR Chase Hammond, LB Conor O'Neill and TE Jacob Pedersen all walked out of the locker room with new close-cropped cuts.

Here's a look at how the event -- and the hair -- went down:

What do the Badgers know about Canada?

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Prior to the Badgers' five-game exhibition tour of Canada, sophomore Sam Dekker quizzed some of his teammates on their knowledge (or lack thereof) of our neighbors to the north.

Wish Upon a Badger: James Helmuth

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A couple years ago, inspired by the "Make a Wish" campaign, the UW Athletic Department began its own version with "Wish Upon a Badger." A number of different sports have participated, including men's basketball, women's tennis, football and softball (View all "Wish Upon a Badger" videos).

In cooperation with the American Family Children's Hospital on campus, children are given the opportunity to go behind the scenes with their favorite team, meeting the players and coaches, touring the facilities and hanging out at a practice.

On the Friday before facing UTEP, the Badger football team had the opportunity to host James Helmuth. James has been undergoing treatment since August and is a huge football fan, with his favorite player being Montee Ball.

As you can see in the video, James got to spend the day immersed in Badger football, spending some time in Coach Bielema's office then getting a special present from his favorite player.

Badgers Give Back: Saturday Heroes visit 4th graders

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Players on Middleton's fourth grade football team received a few special visitors on Monday night--UW football players Tyler Dippel, Bryce Gilbert and Brendan Kelly.

The trio stopped by the team's football practice to show the 11-and-12-year-olds a few moves and inspire them. All defensive linemen, the student-athletes worked primarily with Middleton's defense.

"I think the kids learned more in the 45 minutes that their 'Saturday Heroes' coached them than we have taught them during the last three years," said coach Grant Stousland.

For the Badger student-athletes, it was an opportunity to reminisce on a time before UW Football.

"It brought back a lot of good memories about why I started playing the game of football--for the fun," said Dippel. "We had a great time. The kids were a lot of fun." 


The Voice: Badgers keep finding time to give back

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgThere is classroom work and study table. There are position meetings, team meetings, video sessions and practices. There is travel, which can include long flights and bus rides.

Then there are the games, with packed arenas, stadiums, and perhaps up to a few million more fans viewing every play.

A college athlete signs up for all of this. So do the coaches.

Yet, at the University of Wisconsin, the 800 or so student-athletes and coaches make time to give back to the community. For the past several years, it was thought to be a safe guess that UW student-athletes donated some 1,500 hours a year to community service projects.

Turns out the number was more than double that.

Last year, Badgers players and coaches engaged in more than 3,600 hours of community service, ranging from hospital visits and trips to schools to promote reading to projects such as Habitat for Humanity.

"It's really remarkable, with all of their busy schedules, with classes, practices, games and so on, that they make the time to do all of this," UW Associate Athletic Director for External Relations Justin Doherty said.

Yet they do it eagerly.

"Our student-athletes are just amazing with the kids," says Doherty. "The hospital visits, with reading. They have become kids themselves again."

Now the process of connecting with UW Athletics is easier. The department recently launched a new platform called "Badgers Give Back." The goal is to better serve fans and the Madison community.

Organizations can make a request online via the "Badgers Give Back" page at UWBadgers.com.

"It (the request) goes through compliance," explains Doherty. "It goes through our community relations coordinator (Kayla Gross). The process is easy now. We feel good about it, and we feel good that we can communicate what we do."

Coaches spend countless hours trying to figure out how to win the next game. Nobody understands that any better than UW Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez. Yet, he knows the importance of reaching out to the community, and he wants every team on campus to embrace the concept.

"We've tried to take this to our players. We have to give back, too," Alvarez said. "It is not just about our fans giving to us. It is about us giving back to the community. All of our student-athletes buy into that. We know we are an important part of this city, and we want to make sure we give back."

And they have. And they will continue to give back.

In recent years, certain stories have gained a fair amount of attention, such as former Badgers quarterback Scott Tolzien's relationship with a young man who has battled cancer.

While he played basketball at Wisconsin, Michael Flowers also became friends with a young man going through a rough stretch.

Those are just two examples of countless stories where a fan can see a student-athlete away from the athletic arena.

I can tell you from personal experience that the athletes and the coaches enjoy using their platform accordingly, and often are very touched by the people they meet.

During the games it is easy to get excited when the Badgers win, or frustrated win they lose. But it is good to know that there is a lot more to UW student-athletes than where their teams are in the conference standings or national polls.

With the "Badgers Give Back" initiative, it now is a more efficient process for those efforts to continue.

Football players return to roots for elementary school visit

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Three freshmen on the Wisconsin football team made a special visit to their hometown of Waunakee, Wis., to inspire elementary students at the Prairie Elementary School's all-school assembly on Wednesday

Derek Straus, Austin Maly and Jack Russell surprised more than 100 students when they walked into Prairie Elementary School's gymnasium Wednesday morning. During the half hour assembly, they answered questions about the importance of academics, goal setting, and balancing athletics with their studies.

"I remember when I was younger, in that same school, some badger players came to talk to us and I was just in awe by them," said Straus. "To get the opportunity to do the same thing for all those kids was a great feeling. It's important to me to remember where I'm from and to give back to the community."

Badger hockey players participate in summer program

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Badger Women's Hockey players Molly Doner and Kelly Jaminski visited teens involved with the United Cerebral Palsy  (UCP) Teen Summer Program on July 13, 2012.

The UCP Teen Summer Program is an initiative of the Madison-based non-profit that provides fun-filled activities and support for children with disabilities.

"UCP is very grateful for the time that the UW student-athletes donated," said UCP Service Coordinator Caroline Miller. "It gave the teens in our program the opportunity to build connections in the community!"

The event also provided freshman Doner's her first experience volunteering as a Badger athlete.

"I had such a great experience and loved meeting and playing with all the kids," said Doner. "They are truly an inspiration and I received much more from the experience than I gave."

Doner and Jaminski played games one-on-one with camp attendees and participated in arts and crafts at the event.

"With the help of the [student-athletes] we were able to discover interests that we didn't know our teens had," said Miller. "One teen in particular played football for an hour and we didn't even know before that she liked to play!"

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