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UMW launches its athletic booster club

Hundreds of people from the University of Mary Washington and Fredericksburg celebrated the launch of the university’s first official booster club Saturday during Eagle Nation Day.

The kickoff for the Eagle Club, held at UMW’s Battleground Athletic Complex, featured fun activities, free food and appearances by top athletes.

“Having an organization that officially promotes student-athletes and the athletic department here is absolutely necessary,” said Ken Tyler, director of athletics.

The Eagle Club was created to merge the individual fundraising efforts of UMW’s teams together and to promote awareness about the university’s athletics programs.

“We really want to connect with the community, and to have them look at UMW as their hometown college team,” Tyler said.

Students and staff believe there is a lack of knowledge about the university and its athletic department.

“I’ll go around and people will ask if we have a basketball team,” said Walt Smith, a UMW basketball player. “I think this is a great way to meet the people and put a face to our team.”

During Eagle Nation Day, each team had a table set up along the sidelines where they were autographing and handing out the fall 2013 athletic schedule.

“It’s very nice what they are doing here,” said Jeff Amorose. “All the kids can come and meet the student-athletes. It gives them someone to look up to.”

The event also offered free food, horseback rides and an inflatable obstacle course.

“It’s a great thing they are doing for the community,” said Julie Spinelli. “Everything is free, so what more could you want?”

Jeff Rouse, an Olympic gold medalist and Eagle Club advisory board member, saw the event as a way to get more of the community to come to UMW athletic events.

“For me, it’s about attendance,” Rouse said. “When you are an athlete, there are a lot of reasons you compete, but there is nothing more special than competing in front of a home crowd.”

Along with Rouse, The Eagle Club has another big name on its advisory board: Darrell Green, a Washington Redskins Hall of Famer.

Green started with the club earlier this year and is the special assistant for student-athletic development and public relations.

“I have a God-given ability, through this thing called football, to bring resources and access to the people and to help benefit the UMW community,” Green said.

He said he was sitting at home one day thinking about how he wanted to engage with a university, and the first one that popped into his head was UMW.

“I went to a small school just like this,” Green said. “It feels like home.”

That feeling of home is seen within the UMW community and its student-athletes.

“We are one big family,” said Kaitlynn Wickersham, a UMW volleyball player. “I know if I ever needed anything I can always turn to my team.”

A cannon blast at the closing ceremony of the event marked the official launch off the Eagle Club,

“I am so excited about today because it makes our commitment real to our student athletes,” Tyler said.

Jessica Koers is a freelance writer.