By Bryce Couch and Andrew Johnson
Being a college athlete is a unique experience shared by only 420,000 students nationwide. The title Student Athlete carries a great deal of weight with responsibilities ranging from the field to the classroom to the community. One overlooked aspect of this platform is the ability to give back and impact the community through off the field efforts. The University of Sioux Falls football team got their chance to give back on Saturday, April 6 and Sunday, April 7, when the men of the Coo spent their weekend with the participants of the 2019 South Dakota Miss Amazing event.
Miss Amazing is a national competition featuring young women with varying types of special needs. The South Dakota Miss Amazing program’s inaugural year was in 2015 and has experienced exponential growth. The 2018 event was highlighted with 28 participants and the program’s first sold out event. A production that big needs volunteers. There are three main avenues of volunteer work with the Miss Amazing event: being a Buddy, lending a helping hand, and the Right Hand Man program. The Buddies of Miss Amazing spend the day with the participants, getting to know them and helping them get ready for the event. The Helping Hands do professional hair and makeup for the participants, and the Right Hand Men escort the participants on stage in their evening wear.
Augustana University is generally the main source of the Right Hand Man volunteers, but when USF football’s Head Coach Jon Anderson was approached with the opportunity to help he decided without hesitation that it would be a great opportunity. Upon learning more about the program and the positive things involved with it, he knew the young men on his team would make the perfect Right Hand Men for the weekend. Anderson says, “anytime we can give back and be selfless it benefits us.” He also highlighted the fact that although the football team is a community in itself, it is part of and can positively reflect the entire USF community as a whole.
Courtney Nelson, the Assistant Director for South Dakota Miss Amazing spoke about the typical pool of volunteers that they draw from. “In the past, we’ve always used Augie football players and other men from the community, but Katy (State Director) and I decided to include as many groups as possible, which meant putting everybody outside of their comfort zone and inviting USF players as well.” Nelson says the event went very well and all of the participants did great and seemed comfortable on stage. “Having USF players there made the experience so much more enjoyable,” said Nelson.
Two key figures on the team, Redshirt Junior Mike Enalls and Senior Elijah Perine stepped up and helped in a major way over the course of the weekend. Enalls, a starting linebacker and Sioux Falls native said it “felt right” to give back and help out in his home community. Perine, a starting offensive lineman for the Coo added that he “learned to live everyday to the fullest” and has a new appreciation for helping other people bring out the best in themselves.
Overall it was a great weekend for the Sioux Falls community and everyone involved with the Miss Amazing Program. Feedback from both the players and the organizers of the event was nothing but positive. Nelson added, “as long as USF wants to come back, we would love to have you all there!”
Volunteers are always encouraged for the Miss Amazing Program, and those opportunities can be found at the Miss Amazing website. Donations are always welcome and you can find more information on the donation page.