FAIRFIELD — In addition to regular season games, the Fairfield Ludlowe field hockey team has a set schedule for offseason workouts and camps.
And, at the end of every July, there is another important date highlighted.
A week from Saturday, for the third straight year, the Falcons will volunteer at the CT Challenge, the annual fundraising bike ride event for Mission, the cancer survivorship center in their hometown.
“Living here in Fairfield and being involved with this program, and being involved with a lot of families in Fairfield, you start to meet people and see other people’s experiences and get relationships of your own, and that’s motivation to get into the organization and volunteer and be that helping hand to reach out to people,” said Audrey Sharp, one of Ludlowe’s captains. “We always want to keep up a good reputation here, we really want to help out and be a strong hand in our community altogether.”
Ludlowe coach Joe Skarupa said his team first was connected to Mission at the suggestion of Dave Schulz, the school’s former athletic director and current FCIAC commissioner.
“I showed it to the girls and said it was 7 in the morning until whatever it was, and the girls thought it was a great idea,” Skarupa said. “And some for the national honor society need community service so this was a way to get that too.”
So on July 28 the players will arrive at their stations on the bike route, where they work with the members of the Sacred Heart University women’s basketball team, handing out water and snacks to the riders.
“It’s just a great bonding experience, getting up at 6:30 and setting up,” said Grace Ghee, another team captain. “Everyone is tired but then you get to see all your teammates and it’s fun, but you’re also doing a good thing.”
Mission, formerly known as the CT Challenge Center for Survivorship, is a Southport facility that offers a variety of programs for those who battle cancer, including mind, body and fitness training, as well as nutrition education. With over 400 members, it has an expanded facility that also includes prevention memberships.
Last year 1,181 riders raised over two million dollars for the facility. The Ludlowe field hockey players were among approximately 550 volunteers.
“We’ve done other small things over the years, clean-ups in parks and that,” Skarupa said. “This was a way to get connected with a bigger organization and be part of it.”
Mission attracted publicity in the FCIAC when former Fairfield Warde basketball player Giacomo Brancato three years ago went through a public recovery with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Two former Ludlowe cheerleaders, Patrice Tsopanides and Morgan Galdenzi, also benefited in their battles from training at Mission.
“We all know people who have had cancer and this is a good way to show our support,” Sharp said. “It’s in our community and it’s also a good way to build bonds between the girls on the team, especially before the season, and make sure we have strong tryouts and a strong season, and in the bigger picture volunteering and getting to help out people. It’s a nice experience.”
The Falcons open their season on Sept. 6 at home against Norwalk.
“I think volunteering is great for them,” Skarupa said. “It is something they can do to help. And on top of that something we can do together. We really push teamwork, camaraderie, from the freshmen on up. We want everybody involved.”
For more information on volunteering at this year’s event, click here.