Wingate tied for second place in the 2022 NCAA Division II Award of Excellence competition, which recognizes initiatives in the 2021 calendar year that exemplify the D2 philosophy of community engagement and student-athlete leadership. The Bulldogs were honored for participation in the 28th annual United Way Day of Caring. The tie for second place (with the CIAA) is Wingate’s highest finish in the competition.
“It is always a great day when Wingate brings home an NCAA trophy, this time from Indianapolis and the NCAA national convention,” says Wingate Director of Athletics Kelley Kish. “Second place in the 2022 Division II Award of Excellence is very special, as our student-athletes and staff are recognized for living the values of the NCAA Division II philosophy of community engagement and leadership. Our Bulldog family is proud to have the national spotlight on Wingate University, Union County and the United Way Day of Caring.”
During the United Way Day of Caring, which is held the last Saturday in August, volunteers assist community members and nonprofits with household upkeep and other projects. The Wingate women’s basketball team worked at the Community Shelter of Union County.
“It means so much to our team to give back,” Wingate sophomore women’s basketball player Peyton Davis says. “We receive so much during our season. Being able to give back is just a small way to show everyone how grateful we are for everything the community is doing.”
Of the 311 Wingate University-associated volunteers during the Day of Caring, 273 were student-athletes, from women’s basketball, men’s lacrosse, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s track and field and cross country.
When a local corporation had to pull its volunteers at the last minute, head coach Tim Boyle and the Wingate men’s lacrosse team stepped up to cover the six unattended projects. Twenty players volunteered at the Wingate Community Garden, while the rest visited the homes of five local senior citizens. “For our team especially, we have guys from all over the country, so it was an awesome experience to touch base with the local Bulldog fans,” Wingate lacrosse player Mike DiLegge says. “We are so thankful to be able to give back to our community, as Coach Boyle always preaches. Service is a big part of who we are as Wingate lacrosse players. We strive to build our character every day.”
Of the Wingate volunteers, 125 were members of the track and field teams – the first time they had participated during the three-year tenure of Matt van Leirop, director of cross country, track and field, and triathlon. They covered 12 projects.
“One of the many reasons I love attending Wingate is because the University provides us with many opportunities, like the United Way Day of Caring, to give back to our local community,” sophomore distance specialist Brooklyn Pierce says. “Volunteering as a team is an incredible way to bond with your teammates on a new level and appreciate the people you have around you.”
Minnesota Duluth won the top prize for its work with the Green Bandana Project and mental health awareness, receiving $3,000. Wingate and the CIAA received $1,250 each for their second-place finishes. Prize money is intended for future Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) initiatives or community-engagement events.