Nov. 6, 2012
MADISON, Wis-- Most UW football players spent their "bye weekend off" by relaxing or going home their hometowns. Four UW Football players, however, used the free time to give back, by riding a steam locomotive from Milton, Wis., to Madison, Wis., to benefit Toys for Tots.
Toys for Tots is a philanthropic effort of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. The program collects new, unwrapped toys from October- December to distribute to local disadvantaged youth as Christmas gifts.
Ray Ball, Chase Hammond, Austin Maly and Tyler Marz all participated in the ride that covered over 50 miles to benefit the organization. Beginning in Milton, the train stopped in Edgerton, Wis.; Stoughton, Wis.; McFarland, Wis.; Madison and Middleton, Wis., to pick up toys and visit with local Badger fans.
Over the course of the day-long event, 15 donation boxes were filled with over 600 toys by people who came to see the train and its passengers. Those toys will be distributed as Christmas gifts to youth throughout Dane County.
Marine Captain Shane Bartelt was on the train ride representing Toys for Tots and collecting the toys. He was pleased with the student-athletes' efforts to help the organization.
"They were a hit among the kids," he said. "I understand that for student-athletes time is a premium, and them helping out on their day off was great."
The train was provided by the Steam Locomotive Heritage Association, a non-profit that attempts to preserve railroad heritage to allow new generations to appreciate the railroad.
Burt Moll of the Steam Locomotive Heritage Association helped to organize the event and was equally pleased with the actions and demeanor of the student-athletes.
"We're so happy that the athletic department and the four football players who joined us were on board," said Moll. "They certainly provided a special presence on the train and graciously welcomed all the visitors at each town."
The football players were equally enthusiastic about being on-board the train. "The experience was fun," said Marz. "To see all of the people come out with toys and the smiles on their faces were really gratifying."
The Toys for Tots organization has always been dear to the hearts of the UW student-athletes. For the past several years, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) has hosted an annual "Toys for Tots game" at a UW Athletics event.
SAAC will be hosting this year's Toys for Tots game on Saturday, Dec. 8 at the UW men's hockey game against Michigan Tech. Fans are encouraged to bring new unwrapped toys to the game. Bins will be placed at the gates to collect the toys and staffed by local Marines and UW student-athletes.
Fans interested in attending the hockey game may purchase tickets here.