Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Spotlighting importance of community: ‘Badgers Give Back’

Student-athletes give back through wellness plan subsidiary
Maddox Durst

Elevating lives in the community — it’s the motto of the Badgers Give Back program, which is a part of Forward360, a segment of the University of Wisconsin’s wellness plan responsible for providing the student body with opportunities and resources to have success on and off campus.

The six dimensions of life include social, emotional, financial, intellectual, occupational and physical, according to Forward360. They’re surrounded by nine multidimensional programs.

“The Forward360 model is this idea that Wisconsin Athletics supports its students holistically in their experience,” Associate Director of Community Relations Caitlin Quillen said. “So we think a lot about areas of wellness with student athletes. The most common ones we are going to think of are their physical and mental [health].”


In addition to Badgers Give Back, there are other sections which offer similar services and opportunities — including the likes of academic services, meditation training and performance nutrition, to name a few.

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The other portion of Forward360 focuses on career, leadership and academic advising. It sets a tone to prepare student athletes for their future and form their role within society, outside of sports, emphasized and defined by Badgers Give Back.

“What do you want to do with your skills [and] abilities, your talents to be a part of this community and be a part of a future community,” Quillen said of the approach when entering Badgers Give Back, led by the vision of Assistant Athletic Director for Community Relations Jackie Davenport, who’s worked in the program for a decade.

Athletes’ representation at the University of Wisconsin is key throughout every branch of the community, which is why programs such as these are so influential.

“They [Badgers Give Back] always reach out and say ‘we’re going to collect supplies,’” Vice President of Education of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, Taylor Jackson, said. “Most recently, for the ‘Back to School’ supply drive, they had over 1,000 items that they had collected. So, just a huge amount of resources for our members, but then they also show up and volunteer as well.”

A similar example of the recent work of the Badgers Give Back program was over the summer, helping out with the Miracle League of Dane County. During this time, student athletes spent eight Wednesday’s at Phoebe Bakken Memorial Park in Cottage Grove, located about 10 miles outside UW’s campus, helping manage games and, most importantly, having fun.

It was noticeable, according to the founder and executive director of the Miracle League of Dane County, Bill Schultz. He witnessed the program providing services throughout other aspects of the city, and he wanted to get their help as volunteers for his participants over the summer.

“They came out in a van every Wednesday during the summer,” Schultz said. “I don’t think they expected what they saw and what they experienced, because you could tell in their eyes and through their voices what they have said about it. It just moved them and inspired them more than they ever expected.”

Schultz didn’t have extreme expectations for the group — he just wanted them for a week or so. It eventually changed when they committed for the entire summer.

From the moment the athletes hit the field, the creation of new friendships and bonds ensued, a common result deriving from these experiences for all parties.

“Everything we do, we try to make it sustainable,” Quillen said. “So, it’s really important to Jackie [Davenport] and I that we’re not just showing up in community, doing something, getting a couple of pictures … We’re more concerned about embedding ourselves into that organization and making sure we support them long term.”

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The volunteer work of the athletes allowed children with social and physical disabilities to enjoy and play the game of baseball in a safe manner. Participants now had the opportunity to be a part of the game they loved.

It didn’t stop positive interactions for both the athletes and children, each of whom bonded at a high level.

“The athletes were putting kids on their shoulders and running around the bases with them,” Schultz said. “You had them doing high fives … all kinds of hand gestures, talking to the kids, taking photos with them. And it wasn’t like a photo-op. It was all organic.”

The friendships didn’t end once the gates were locked at Bakken Park, as a future began to develop between the two programs. The Badgers Give Back will be back and volunteering with the Miracle League of Dane County next summer, expanding to more teams due to the number of athletes who volunteered to help out, according to Schultz.

To stay in touch over the offseason, two members of the Wisconsin women’s hockey team asked one of their new friends to join them for a full gameday experience at LaBahn Arena, according to Schultz. Life-changing moments, all through the work of serving the community.

“I think that’s the best part of my job,” Quillen said about the relationships developed between participants and volunteers. “I get to empower student athletes to find their voice and what that looks like in our community.”

As the Badgers Give Back program provided quality services to the Miracle League of Dane County, Schultz realized the potential of the resources the university offers for the future.

It wouldn’t stop at just athletes either. Schultz aspires to gain the help of students enrolled at UW, attempting to offer similar experiences and highlights to those interested.

“It kind of inspired me to work with some other parts of UW for students that might like to get involved,” Schultz said. “Because the Badgers [Give Back] is a great example of the impact it has on [participants].”

Along with the Miracle League of Dane County, the program does work with the UW Children’s Hospital, grocery shopping for the Goodman Center and organizing and delivering supplies for the aforementioned Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, to name a few.

As opportunities arise and volunteer work continues to evolve, the Badgers Give Back program takes advantage. The lasting impact continues to be significant, for everyone.

“We are trying to be active in different spaces where we see that there’s a need and where there’s a voice … to really support and thrive Madison,” Quillen said.

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