Cape-Atlantic League teams do more than just play games

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gamiSJFOD Photo courtesy of The South Jersey Field of Dreams/The Absegami High School baseball team volunteered last week at the opening weekend of the South Jersey Field of Dreams. We watch them perform for three months in each of three seasons on the fields and courts, in the gyms and pools, on the tracks and courses.

They are the varsity athletes from the Cape-Atlantic League – the boys and girls who are among the best in their school in their sports. They entertain us and surprise us. Some win championships, others struggle to compete. And, through it all, they maintain a proper level academically.

But, in many cases, there is a lot more to these student-athletes. Inspired by their coaches, athletics directors and even their own ideas, these teenagers make a difference in their communities.

At least two schools – St. Augustine Prep and Bridgeton – require every athletic team to perform one act of service or volunteerism annually. Here are some of the projects that owe their success, at least in part, to CAL student-athletes.

• Last June, the St. Augustine football team began the 2013 football season by participating in the Hammonton Cancer Foundation’s “Walk for our Neighbors.” The scholar-athletes helped the foundation's leadership with organizational tasks to facilitate the day-long fundraising event. All proceeds from the event benefit the Hammonton Cancer Foundation's work in fighting this terrible disease.

• The golf team at Cape May Tech designed and built barn swallow houses for the birds at Sand Barrens Golf Club. The swallows had been nesting above the veranda in the Sand Barrens clubhouse and were disruptive to guests and causing a mess. The team responded to a request from Doug Delany, the director of golf at the club.

• On March 14, members of the Mainland boys & girls crew teams were on hand to present a check in the amount of $1075 to the Alcove Center for Grieving Children & Families in Northfield. The Alcove center was chosen to be the recipient of their Row for Humanity Erg-A-Thon fundraising efforts. They provide incredible support to many area families who are suffering from the loss of a loved one. The Mustang rowers have been doing this for nine years, and expect to continue for years to come.

• The Atlantic Tech baseball team teamed up with South Jersey Field of Dreams (SJFOD) last season for a great cause – making the game of baseball accessible for everyone.  Last May, the Red Hawks shared their love of the game with physically and mentally disabled children. The city of Absecon has generously donated a new baseball field at their Dr. Jonathan Pitney Recreation Park for this Field of Dreams. The Red Hawks are scheduled to volunteer at two games this season on Saturday May 10th at 1pm.

• The Atlantic City swim team holds a holiday invitational meet to raise money to benefit spinal injury research and the Jon Manno Scholarship Fund. Jon is a past member of the swim team who was injured and is currently a paraplegic. The team sold program ads, raffle tickets, t-shirts and raised money from the event concession stand. Three other schools participated in the meet – Southern Regional, Buena Regional and Middle Township. The ACHS swim team also holds elementary school swim clinics to promote water safety in their community. This is all done by volunteers from the boys and girls swim team. Last year they serviced over 200 children.

• The Millville football team volunteered to help run the Youth League Football Camp over the summer. The team also participated in “Read Across America” at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School in February. The Millville baseball team also participated in “Read Across America” at Rieck Avenue School in February.

• In November, student representatives of the St. Augustine Prep lacrosse team participated in the Philly Charity Showdown at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. The event is part of the Philly Showcase Weekend which supports the Minds Matter Initiative, and featured some of the top lacrosse teams in the country.

• Ocean City High School teams have been very active in the battle against breast cancer, wearing pink and holding fund-raisers to help the American Cancer Society. The teams include the football, field hockey and soccer teams.

• The Mainland girls basketball team organized a clothing drive to help out a girl who plays for Oakcrest and lost her home and belongings in a fire.

• For years, the Atlantic City cross country team has volunteered at the Atlantic City Marathon by operating a water station (usually in Longport) to aid runners.

• At Bridgeton, during the fall season, the football team helped clean up Broad Street. The cheerleaders cleaned up the Broad Street Cemetery and the Bridgeton Zoo. The boys and girls soccer teams plus the cross country teams and girls tennis team volunteered at the Bridgeton Crab Fest.

• And many schools in the CAL have actively raised money for Coaches vs Cancer, a charitable activity that started in basketball and has spread to other sports. 

We solicited information about activities like these from all 22 schools in the CAL. Some did not reply yet. This is just a sample of what the other schools sent. We have more examples that will be included in part two of this column next week. And we might still receive more information from the schools that had not yet responded by press time for this week’s paper.

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