From Feb. 21 to 28, University athletic teams will participate in a competitive fundraising initiative called Wesleyan Athletics Giving Days (WAGD). Throughout the week, athletic teams will compete for the greatest percentage of donor participation for their sport. The highest scoring teams, one men’s and one women’s, will win $5,000.
Director of Athletic Fundraising Karen Whalen, Assistant Director of Alumni and Parent Relations Jenna Starr ’15, and Associate Director of Alumni & Parent Relations Bessie Bianco plan and execute WAGD.
“We each have specific responsibilities, all of which include collaborating with coaches and staff in Athletics, University Relations and University Communications,” Whalen wrote in an email to The Argus. “As you can imagine, keeping score for a competition like this is no small feat and my team can’t do it without the help of colleagues in the Operations Office of University Relations. It’s a real team effort.”
Last year, WAGD raised over $125,000, and Men’s Tennis and Softball each took the $5,000 prize. Women’s teams also had more participation than men’s. However, Whalen wants to emphasize the initiative’s charitable aspects.
“Though the gifts definitely help each team supplement their central operating budgets, the main purpose of the campaign is to generate awareness that Athletics is also a philanthropic cause at Wes,” Whalen said. “For this initiative, we primarily focus on participation, not dollars raised.”
Generally, team fundraising results in immediate benefits for the University’s sports programs.
“Every year we must fundraise the full cost of our spring training trip and the players pay for the difference of what is not raised,” Softball Head Coach Jen Lane said in the Wesleyan Newsletter. “Winning WAGD helped defray the players’ out-of-pocket costs, both last year and will again this year. It also helped supplement our equipment budget as well as give us more money for meals on the road and team breakfasts for Saturday home doubleheaders.”
Additionally, if the number of participating donors on a team exceeds $1,500, an extra $5,000 will be given for sports medicine enhancements.
“Sports medicine is an essential part of the overall athletic experience for all Cardinal student-athletes,” Director of Athletics Mike Whalen said in the Wesleyan Newsletter. “Strengthening the Athletic Injury Care program to meet the needs of our athletes is one of many non-sport-specific reinvestment opportunities planned for Wesleyan Athletics.”
As of now, men’s and women’s lacrosse are in the lead, with 40 percent participation from the women’s team and 33 percent from the men’s.
“I know I speak for our coaches and student-athletes when I say thank you to WAGD participants,” Coach Whalen wrote in an email to the Argus. “I am proud to be a Wesleyan Cardinal and humbled by their commitment to the work we do. We wouldn’t be able to provide our student-athletes with the opportunity to achieve, serve and lead without the enthusiastic support of our alumni, parents, friends, and fans.”
Mackenzie Mitchell ’20, varsity women’s soccer player, commented on the important of WAGD within the Wesleyan community.
“This is important because the athletics community at each NESCAC school makes up a considerable portion of the student body,” Mitchell said. “That influence of that breadth can be positively routed towards giving back to the local community and having a greater impact than just on the field, court, track, etc.”
Kaye Dyja can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter as @kayedyja.