Oct. 10, 2012
MADISON, Wis.-- For many Badger fans, tailgating before UW athletic competitions is a time-honored tradition. Wisconsin’s ‘tailgate culture’ is such an honored tradition, it is one of the contributing factors to Madison being named USA Today’s Best College Sports Town.
On Friday, Oct. 5, 15 student-athletes had the opportunity to share this Badger tradition with a slightly different audience: the kindergarteners of John Muir Elementary School.
The student-athletes enjoyed traditional tailgate food---hotdogs and ice cream---with the 90 five and six-year-olds at the annual event. It is one that the student-athletes have attended for the last few years. However, this year’s tailgate was special because it was the last one for teacher Dana Fuhrman who is retiring.
Fuhrman has developed a relationship with several student-athletes during her tenure at John Muir Elementary when they served as mentors in her classroom, many on a weekly basis. Women’s track member Dorcas Akinniyi, women’s volleyball player Deme Morales and football player Ben Reuchel were all mentors in Fuhrman’s classroom and were in attendance on Friday.
“I always love visiting the kids and Mrs. Furhman at John Muir,” Akinniyi said. “It makes me feel like I am making a difference in the kid’s lives since they look up to us as athletes so much.”
According to Furhman, the kindergarten students ‘love’ the student-athletes visits as well.
“Having the [student-athletes] work in the classrooms with students, work with an individual student or enjoy a “mini 5th quarter” kindergarten style is a win-win for everyone,” she said. “The [student-athletes] are able to give the students a sense of self-confidence they might not have otherwise.”
After enjoying their fill of food and sitting on the front lawn in circles with the students, everyone joined arms to conclude the event by dancing as the UW marching band played ‘Varsity’.
“It was a lot of fun and a great experience seeing how excited the kids were,” said Reuchel. “You can tell they really look up to us and it’s great that we can be positive role models for them.”
Student-athletes in attendance include football players Ruechel, Bart Houston and Jake Meador; women's cross country runner Taylor Zimprich; women's crew members Hanna Lynch, Pamela Schommer, Vivian Simmons, and Monica Whitehouse; women's track members Akinniyi and Kelsey Card; wrestlers Brad Nardick and Tom Kelliher; and women's volleyball player Deme Morales.