FAIRBORN — While most college students are working summer jobs, internships or making up classes, the Wright State University men’s basketball team traveled to the Dominican Republic in early August.
Their time was spent putting shoes on the feet of children from the Caribbean country located on the island of Hispaniola.
Players and coaches figured beforehand they were going to make an impact on the lives of local kids. What they didn’t realize was the magnitude of impact those kids and others would have on them.
“It was a good trip for the players,” said Head Coach Scott Nagy. “It gave them a good sense of perspective. The fact that they are reaching out to little kids, and those with a lot of need, I think it impacted them in a positive way. We talked about what they will see, but you can’t be prepared until you go there and experience. Our players learned from it, and I think they will remember for the rest of their lives.”
The mission trip, funded privately with the help of Samaritan’s Feet, began Aug. 4 and saw the Raiders visit various towns and villages over a five-day period. The trip was the second time WSU’s Nagy has taken a team to the Island, after his team from South Dakota State made the visit to Haiti in 2013. The original plans called for a trip to Haiti for the Raiders, but civil unrest in that nation resulted in a last-minute change in plans.
“I feel really blessed to take a trip like this. I didn’t know what to expect, and I hope the kids we visited got half of the experience from our trip there than I did. I have been humbled, and I realize what I have. I will not take it for granted,” WSU senior Alan Vest said.
While home base for the team was in the capital city of Santo Domingo, days were spent traveling to areas outside of town to visit churches and centers to wash feet and distribute shoes. The team’s excursions included places like Orphanage Vanessa Taveras, Villa Consuelo Sto Dgo Oeste, Batey Boca de Soco San Pedro and Batey Santa Fe. In all, the Raiders distributed almost 900 pairs of shoes.
When they arrived at each location, they would set up for the distribution at the local church or community center. Each distribution would typically last a few hours. During that time, they would bring in children, wash their feet, and give them a brand-new pair of shoes and some candy. Once the shoe distributions ended, they would play basketball, baseball, soccer, tag, duck-duck-goose, and other games with the children. Evenings were spent reflecting on the day and resting in preparation for the following day.
Nagy hopes this isn’t the last trip taking a team to serve a humanitarian role.
“It was an amazing trip. We faced some challenges with the last second change of countries, but everyone was willing to make it happen and far exceeded anyone’s expectations,” Samaritan’s Feet Regional Director Denise Blomberg said. “The people who received the shoes, and other gifts were thankful, but the gift of their time became far more important than the material gifts. I think everyone left a piece of their heart there. I am excited to see the seeds we planted grow in many ways.“
“We try to recruit and develop young men to be leaders on the court and in the classroom to graduate and become a complete person, not just a basketball player. This experience went to that end,” said Assistant Coach Brian Cooley.
For more information on the Wright State University Raiders go to www.wsuraiders.com.