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softball players at Strike out Lissencephaly Night

Giving Back

The thick lines of eye black that streaked across senior Alie Alkins’ cheeks quickly faded away inside an infectious grin.

Alkins knelt down and embraced her five-year-old nephew Ryan in a big hug as fellow teammates gathered around in the dugout, each of them donning blue shirts that read “Strike Out Lissencephaly.”

Ryan was diagnosed with Lissencephaly – a rare genetic brain malformation – at five months old. Children with the disability often struggle to sit, stand, or walk independently, but with the help of Alkins, Ryan threw out the first pitch at a recent softball double header.

The “Strike Out” shirts were also sold as a way to raise awareness about the disability, and to help with Ryan’s medical bills. More than $2,500 was raised for Ryan and his family.

This type of civic engagement work is not uncommon at Widener. Our students-athletes dedicate hundreds of hours each year to giving back in a variety of activities such as Special Olympics, Northern Star Sports, and Soccer for Success.

“I think part of my decision to come to Widener was the civic engagement piece and giving back to the community,” said Alkins, an early childhood/special education major.

In November, Widener cheerleading participated in the third annual "Stop Hunger Now" event at the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware.

The squad helped package meals for under developed countries. This year a total of 24,192 meals were packaged, 20% higher than the previous year.

The men’s soccer team  raised funds in April for Mario Carpino, a local South Jersey boy fighting childhood cancer.

“The commitment to service has really permeated their culture to include civic leadership off the field,” said Gretchen Mielke, assistant dean for civic engagement.

“They effectively transition their leadership to helping build bridges in our community.”

Kirsten Alkins added the Strike Out Lissencephaly event brought some finality for her sister in her last season playing softball for the Widener Pride.

“It’s an awesome thing for her to be able to tell Ryan’s story,” Kirsten Alkins said. “Throughout her softball career they have done a lot of events, but for this to be so personal to our family, it is very heartwarming. It’s really sweet of Widener and the community to do this.

But senior Taylor Church, who assisted in organizing the event along with teammate Heather Forward, remarked how she feels like the lucky one.

“The sport has given so much to us,” the business informatics major said. “So I think it is in us to want to give back anyway we can.”