Williams College athletes team up to rally local kids

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WILLIAMSTOWN - Each year, dozens of local school children flock to the Williams College campus to cheer on their favorite sports teams and players. So a few years ago, the college athletes came together and agreed on the
need to give back to their some of their youngest fans.

What they came up with is a program called "Kids Night Out," which gives parents a chance to drop-off kids of kindergarten through Grade 6 age, for a
couple of hours to meet, play games and have a snack with their
college-aged counterparts.

"It's evolved a lot," said Jennifer Chuks, assistant professor of physical education and assistant athletic director for student athlete services. Over the past three years, Kids Night Out has been left up to the Williams College Student Athletic
Advisory Committee to organized. The leadership group is comprised from
more than 70 athletes for 28 men's and women's teams.

Women's basketball players Kristin Fechtelkotter, a junior from Medfield, and Lauren Vostal, a sophomore from Manasquan, N.J., said they fell back on their experiences as babysitters and camp counselors to lead games at Friday night's Halloween-themed Kids Night Out. About two dozen children took park in games of "Shipwreck," soccer, football, parachute play, basketball and "Capture
the Flag" all held in the Lasell Gymnasium.

"A lot of these kids are the children of professors, so it's nice to be
able to become a friendly face to them when they're on campus, not just
at games," Fechtelkotter said.

She said the athletic advisory committee hopes to plan other events this
year, beyond the next Kids Night Out, which will be scheduled again in
the spring. She noted that some student athletes also participate in
Williams' mentoring program, which sends college kids to help students
in local elementary schools.

"As athletes, people come to our games, so it's good to be able to give back and show local places our support," Vostal said.

Both she and Angus O'Rourke, a sophomore men's lacrosse player from Newton, also agreed that it's a fun time for the college students too.

"As a college student, you don't have a lot of time to just be goofy," said Vostal.

"I think I might be having more fun than these guys," said O'Rourke, right before launching a football to a group of three boys, eagerly anticipating the pass.

"I remember being this age and thinking how cool older kids were. Plus,
it's more fun than just hanging around in my dorm room waiting for my
friends to go out," he said.

Most kids there gave the short answer of "it's fun" before running back to a game when asked by a reporter how they liked the program.

O'Rourke said it was a good group. "They're so nice," he said, noting how
"refreshing" it felt to connect with kids in the Williams College neighborhood.

"It definitely makes you feel more at home," he said.

Reach staff writer Jenn Smith at 413-496-6239 or @JennSmith_Ink on Twitter


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