Team steps off court to help community

GVL Archive
Junior Alex Stelfox goes up for a lay-up during a past match.

GVL Archives

GVL Archive Junior Alex Stelfox goes up for a lay-up during a past match.

The offseason is not just a time for an athlete to prepare for the upcoming season, but also a time to get involved and help the community that surrounds them.

Over the summer, members of the Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team stepped outside of their comfort zones to participate in community service projects in Alabama to help tornado victims.

The service project was part of an annual tradition for the team, which brainstorms ideas of how to give back to their local community before their season begins.

Last May, the team reached out to a Hudsonville middle school student, Alyssia Crook. A GVSU basketball fan, Crook was born with debilitating defects to both legs and has undergone several surgeries in hopes to relieve pain and improve her mobility. Later that month, she went under the knife one more time to amputate her left leg.

GVSU head coach Janel Burgess said she had been reading articles about Crook for months and knew a way for her team to help. Three days before Crook’s surgery, she joined the Lakers during a practice for a shoot-around.

“The experience to shoot hoops with Alyssia was once-in-a-lifetime,” said junior center Alex Stelfox. “It was very motivating to see her in the condition she was in while being cheerful and happy knowing what she was about to go through.”

Only five months later, Crook is now a staple for the Lakers team, attending every practice. Crook can be seen on the bench this season as their student manager.

“Even after her surgery, she came right back on the court and shot with us, and like before she had a smile on her face the entire time” Stelfox said.

While their service in Alabama was further from home than their experiences with Crook, it was part of a goal to help a community in a more drastic way.

The Lakers knew that they were going to have to throw in some elbow grease to see some smiles when helping clean up the devastation after a tornado ripped through the town of Tuscaloosa, Ala., in early August.

“Our trip was really an eye-opening experience to see a community be blown away from such a major devastation, especially in the United States,” Burgess said. “The most rewarding part for the girls was to see how appreciative everyone was to them throwing in a few days of hard work and sweat to get that town back on their feet.”

The women’s team spent three days in Alabama helping re-build the community and bonding as team.

“I think anytime a team is together in a situation outside of the norm it will cause a team to bond,” said senior forward Kara Crawford. “When you deal with seeing devastation affecting people’s lives, you lean on your teammates and coaches.”

Fans can see what that off-season preparation has amounted to on the court as the Lakers take on Division I opponent Michigan State on Sunday at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

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