MARSHALL — As a result of East Texas Baptist University’s commitment to empowering leaders and improving the community, the Tiger Softball program has been recognized for its community service work by the National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators (NADIIIAA).
ETBU won the second prize in the category “A Range of Projects” for the Softball Pen Pal program in the 2020-21 academic year. There are more than 400 schools in NCAA Division III, and the NADIIIAA has recognized nine programs in total in three categories.
“This is a great honor and reward for ETBU and the Tiger Softball program,” said ETBU Vice President for Student Engagement and Athletics, Ryan Erwin. “We are grateful and proud of our softball student-athletes and our coaching staff for their creative approach to continuing to serve and love others during a difficult time for so many. ETBU Softball continually strives for excellence in their program and this award highlights that commitment, as they have been able to bring joy and create unique friendships with many young children, while highlighting our Christ-centered program .
The NADIIIAA Community Service Awards program, established in 2001, aims to recognize the many contributions that Division III student-athletes regularly make to their campuses and local communities. Recognition is given to projects in three categories: one-time activity/project, set of projects, and Special Olympics activity.
“Our program has been incredibly lucky to be able to find a way to connect with others during the pandemic,” said ETBU Softball Head Coach Janae Shirley. “Being able to bring joy to sick and injured children and connect through letters and communications has been such a blessing to our program and has taught our players how something as small as a letter can do so much. of joy.”
During the 2020-2021 year, the ETBU Softball team started a Pen Pal program which focused on writing for children undergoing cancer treatments, who were unable to receive visitors due to the restrictions related to COVID-19. The team has also written to children dealing with different life issues, including anxiety or depression, the loss of a parent and a child who has suffered a brain injury.
In total, more than 250 hours were devoted to the Pen Pal program. Players sent weekly letters containing questions, information about their lives, pictures, player cards, school logo tattoos, coloring sheets and other fun activities for them to do. their correspondent.
The impact grew in the Marshall community, as the team honored Madie, who came to the “Strike Out Cancer” weekend series and threw the first pitch. It was a special moment when Madie met her pen pal, as joy shone in their eyes.
Shirley is in her 15th season leading the ETBU softball program, winning five American Southwest Conference Tournament Championships, appearing in 11 NCAA Division III National Tournaments and winning the National Championship. of NCAA Division III in 2010.
She has coached numerous All-Americans and produced two Top 9 finalists for NCAA Woman of the Year.