The $14,635 the Softball team raised on Wesleyan Athletics Giving Day (WAGD) will help to cover its spring break trip to Florida where it will play over a third of its season schedule in just nine days.
The money Softball raised, while a significant sum for the program, is just a portion of the near-record breaking total of $521,363 from 2,136 donors that Wesleyan’s 28 athletic teams combined to raise on WAGD on Feb. 15, the second highest total in the fundraiser’s history.
Alongside funding the crucial spring break trip, Softball Head Coach Jennifer Lane said the money it raised will also help cover some of the salaries of the team’s assistant coaches and some equipment—the program bought new bat bags this year, she said.
“It’s not just enhancing the program, but it’s actually paying for a fair amount of our operating expenses as well,” Lane said.
The money will supplement institutional budgets for a variety of operational support including financing assistant coach salaries, purchasing safety equipment, and providing pre- and post-game meals for student-athletes, according to Karen Whalen, Wesleyan Director of Athletic Fundraising.
Considering the record-breaking campaign took place during COVID when sports seasons were cancelled, Whalen said the efforts of the coaches this year “was impressive” considering many were still amidst recruiting, in post season play, or beginning spring practices.
The success of WAGD does not just bear out in the student-athlete experience, it reverberates throughout the University as a whole. Being afforded the access to these critical funds gives each team a greater opportunity to succeed on and off the field, thus enhancing a community spirit integral to creating a vibrant residential campus life for students and alumni experience.
Attendance at home games skyrocketed following the re-introduction of athletics in the Fall of 2021, for example, which the record crowd attending the epic NESCAC Championship victory over Williams felt firsthand.
“It’s critical if we want to continue to compete at the highest level in our league and, by extension, in the country,” Geoff Wheeler, men’s soccer coach, said. “The demands of college athletics are tremendous and the more resources you have, I think, the better experience the student athletes have. And those resources come down to money.”
Men’s Soccer raised the most of any team, with $98,822 raised from 341 donors—also the most of any program. Football raised the second-most, with $69,748, and Women’s Crew raised the third-most with $38,003.
Wheeler said he first began to focus on WAGD three to four years ago and has since created an advisory board of alumni to help with fundraising, events and mentoring. He said the board has been instrumental in “creating more and more momentum for Men’s Soccer.”
He said the players were “intrinsically involved” in the fundraising effort. He partnered them up into groups of four and had them compete against one another for bragging rights and prizes.
“They’re a big part of it because it benefits them, but I want them to have some skin in the game,” Wheeler said.
This was not the only competition at stake, there was also a leaderboard for which teams could get the most donors, relative to their alumni base, among teams. There were separate brackets for the men’s and women’s teams, of which the top-three in each received additional funding dollars.
In the men’s category, the Soccer, Crew and Basketball teams took home each of the top spots, Whalen announced on WAGD. Volleyball, Softball and Field Hockey were the top three in the women’s category.
Lane said the coaches “put a lot of work” into WAGD and making it a competition helps to “fuel the fire.”
“We want each other to succeed, so it’s great to see the overall support that all the teams are getting,” Lane said.