By Mark Gregory
On Saturday, Oct. 14, while many Niles West teams are taking part in athletic contests, some of the teams will be out in the community as part of the inaugural Wolfpack Gives Back event.
From 9 a.m. until noon that day, the football, boys water polo, boys swimming and boys basketball teams will join several clubs and activities groups at several places in the community, including the Niles Township Clothing Closet, Downtown Skokie Merchants, The Homestead, and the D219 Environmental Service Day in honor of the nationwide ‘You Make a Difference Day’.
“I think it is a great idea,” said Niles West athletic director Kendall Griffin. “Our Director of Student Activities, Katie Odell, it was an idea she came up with and she partnered with the athletic department and some of the clubs and organizations to put this on and I think she has done a fantastic job organizing it and rolling it out and getting some of our programs to be part of the event.
“As far as I am concerned as athletic director, I think it is great to see our kids wanting to give back to a community that has tried to give a lot to us. I think the communities we serve and where we get our kids from are great communities and I think it is a good thing to have our kids participate in something like this and it shows that our kids think it is important to give back. I think Katie has done a great job and our coaches that have the kids participating and having them organized for this is a great thing.”
Doing something in the community was not an idea that just came across this school year.
“We have been thinking over the past couple years about what we can do to let the community know we are here and we want them to come by. We have really tried to enhance that experience that visitors and our students have,” Griffin said. “At football games, we have added fireworks to halftime and during touchdowns, we have done a lot with the video board. We have been all about getting more and more people out to our contests as well as enhancing the experience the community has at our events.
“We are in a situation where we are not an Elmurst or an Evanston, where all the community schools feed one high school. We have nine communities that feed Niles West and it becomes a lot harder to figure out how do we bring everyone together and do things that the entire communities can hear about.”
While the students are going out into the community on Oct. 14, the athletics department is inviting the community into the school on a few other occasions.
“This is very similar to something we are doing in athletics with our sender schools – called our Future Wolves Nights. We are inviting student athletes from the five sender schools that feed into Niles West to come out and have a VIP at a football game or volleyball match and basketball when that comes around,” Griffin said. “We are trying to get out in the community and invite the kids that will someday, we hope, be Niles West Wolves to come over to the school and visit with our coaches and see what it is like to participate in high school athletics at Niles West. We want to start or enhance that relationship between the kids in our sender schools and our coaches and the outside community. We are starting that (Wednesday) Oct. 4 (6 p.m.)for girls volleyball against Maine South and we will have T-Shirts for the kids that show up and a Pup Pass that gets them a food and drink item compliments of the booster club and on (Friday) Oct. 20 (7 p.m.), we will have kids interested in football, poms or cheer come out for the game against Maine South. They will get the same thing, as well as an opportunity to run on the field with the football team.”