JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (May 3, 2007) - For the past month and a half the ETSU softball team have put together fundraising efforts to help support the Bluffton University baseball team and the families who lost loved ones from the March 2 bus crash by selling wristbands and T-Shirts at every home game as well as at a handful of road contests. This Friday, the Softball Bucs will make a special trip to
"It will be exciting to go watch them play; however, afterwards it will be emotional to talk with the players and reflect on what has been happening since the crash," stated head ETSU softball coach Andrea Mangrum.
The fundraiser began when members of the ETSU softball program had the opportunity to meet and console some of the Bluffton players and their families after the accident occurred. The Bucs saw the story break across the television screen while they were eating breakfast in a Georgia hotel, preparing for their first game of the Buzz Classic in Woodstock, Ga. (near Atlanta). After following the news story closely, the girls wanted to do something that would help the Bluffton team, and that is when they approached coach Mangrum to see what could be done.
"The idea began as a few girls went to coach to see if there was anything they could do for Bluffton baseball team since they were so close, and once the rest the girls heard about helping out everyone joined efforts to make all this successful," said sophomore Kate Powell. Everyone is pleased with the efforts the ETSU softball team committed to, especially coach Mangrum.
"I am very proud of how hard the girls worked to achieve their goal of creating awareness and producing positive results in the fundraising efforts. This will inspire them for the rest of their lives."
From there, the team initiated its first step to help the cause as they created 1,000 purple wristbands that said "Bluffton Boys" and "Atlanta Bus Crash." The purpose of the bracelets was to remind everyone of the bus accident that occurred the first Friday morning in March. Along the wristbands, the softball team received white Bluffton Baseball T-Shirts that the girls sold to help make money as well.
The team worked hard all season to help raise money, and as of Thursday the Bucs generated around $3,500 in donations, including a $1,000 gift and a charter bus trip to Lexington, from Greene Coach. After the game on Friday the girls will give the Bluffton Beavers all the money they have raised, along with the wristbands, T-Shirts, signs and care packages.
As a whole the Bucs are very happy with how the fundraising efforts have been going so far. "Everyone participating in athletics is considered family, and to be able to reach out and help makes you realize athletics is not all about competing in games," said freshman Dez Franklin.
"The help of Greene Coach is even more rewarding, because they did not have to do that; however, it shows how others want to help and we are thankful for them," added Powell. "By seeing the support of Greene Coach, we hope it will create more awareness to the public and community," said junior Mary Catherine Vercoe.
Along with the wristbands, the ETSU softball team has been honoring the "Bluffton Boys" during the season, by wearing purple ribbons and lettering purple B's on their helmets. The 2007 softball season will be one the team will never forget after experiencing what took place on March 2, as they realized the same thing could happen to them.
"This accident could have happened to anyone in collegiate athletics, and I know my team and staff will never forget this experience," said Mangrum. "Not only did they touch the lives, of at the time complete strangers, but the Bluffton team helped us keep things in perspective for our team. Our girls now realize sports are not all about the wins and losses, but it is about overcoming obstacles and learning from these types of examples."
After the Bucs head back from Kentucky on Friday they will have a few days to regroup and prepare for the 2007 Atlantic Sun Tournament presented by Coca-Cola, which will be held in DeLand, Fla. ETSU earned the number three seed, and will play fourth-seeded Lipscomb in the first round on Thursday, May 10. The game times have yet to be determined. ETSU was also granted permission by the conference to set up a table during next week's tournament to help continue raising money for the "Bluffton Boys".