Whiting Fieldhouse flags


These Bods Care

New program connects student-athletes with area school children

Hunter Bentley at a Bods Care event

From The Ichabod - Winter 2020

With messy faces and between bites of pizza, kids at Meadows Elementary School in Topeka visited with four student-athletes from the Washburn University women’s basketball team in October. Lunchtime topics included their favorite sports, how many siblings they have and their favorite subject.

“It’s always recess or P.E.,” said redshirt freshman Katie Glatczak.

The visit is part of Bods Care, a program that coordinates, enhances and increases community outreach efforts by Washburn’s intercollegiate athletics teams.

Meadows kindergarteners through third graders shuffled in for their turn to eat. After warming up to their guests, the conversations picked up in volume and excitement. At times, the teachers would turn off the lights until the students lowered their voices. Kids who weren’t eating enough would  get gentle reminders.

As the conversations continued, senior Sabela Reigosa and a boy discussed if there are eight or nine planets; Pluto was demoted in 2006. Others debated putting ranch dressing on pizza; junior Hunter Bentley and at least one student were fans of the combination.

“For me, it’s just getting to see how much of an impact you can have on their lives by being with them for a small moment, talking about everyday things and just getting to make their day a little bit better,” Bentley said.

Matt Hutchinson started as director of marketing and promotions in athletics in 2018 and developed Bods Care, adopting it from community outreach programs he operated while at the NAIA and Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri. Many Washburn teams were already doing their own community service. Bods Care packaged it all together. After just one year, the initiative won a bronze award in community engagement and public relations from the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators. He hopes that was just the beginning of the success.

“We’re trying to get people engaged with Washburn by engaging with them,” Hutchinson said. “We work to create a lot of relationships with different groups. The off-campus piece is one we looked at and thought, ‘How do we really get into the community? How do we get our branding out there and create a program around it?’

“Growing up in Topeka and around Washburn, I have friends who have never stepped foot on campus,” he said. “That’s why we target elementary schools and try to get them involved at an earlier age.”

Bods Care events include two visits a month to each of the 16 partner schools to eat lunch, read to kids or play during recess. Last year, student-athletes made 112 visits to account for 950 hours. Other events include pep rallies and the annual Bowling with the Bods Special Olympics event. This October, 750 kids had lunch, got autographs and watched the men’s basketball team scrimmage in Lee Arena.

“Anything we do, the kids are on the edge of their seat, screaming and yelling,” Hutchinson said. “They don't know if that basketball player plays in the NBA or whatever. He's 6'8'' and he's giving me a high five. That's pretty cool.”

Hutchinson sees interest in Bods Care when he meets with business leaders to discuss athletics sponsorships. It’s also a strong recruiting selling point.

“We don’t even make it mandatory for student-athletes. It’s just something we do. It’s now part of our infrastructure,” Hutchinson said. “We have good people around here who are willing to do this.”

Katie GlatczakWhile Bods Care hopefully increases game attendance, sponsorships and enrollment, the immediate and most important impact is on the young and old students involved.

“I want to be a P.E. teacher someday, so I love working with kids,” Glatczak said. “To see their faces when they see us, it doesn’t seem like it to us how important we are, but once we get there, they are so hyped.”

With just pizza and milk to get in the way, the student-athletes had the kids’ undivided attention during the Meadows visit.

“Not all of them have older siblings,” Bentley said. “I think it's good for them to see older kids who grew up the same way they are, just being around them and getting to see what it's like to be older.”

The Ichabod Winter 2021 issue

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2021 winter edition online and look for it in mailboxes in January.

View past editions


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