We at Athlete CRUSH believe that athletes have the power to change the world. So, we wanted to show the world exactly that while also making a difference ourselves. That is why we started the Athlete CRUSH College Impact Awards.
The College Impact Awards recognize student-athletes from across the US who have displayed acts of selflessness worth sharing. Sharing these stories, accomplishments, and positive acts is key to prompting action from others. We want to start a movement where athletes use their platform and their positions to do good. The winner of each award will get to nominate a charity(s) to which we will donate $ in their name!
Today we are recognizing our RAK (Random Act of Kindness) Award finalists. This award goes to an individual who has done something just out of their good nature. They did this good deed because they are a good person and because they believed it was the right thing to do. Making someone’s day was, to them, the goal of this act.
Lexie Priessman – Louisiana State University
Lexie is a gymnast, who has been a large part of LSU’s impact in the Baton Rouge community and beyond. Two years ago, Priessman befriended a little girl by the name of Gracie Zaunbrecher. At just 7 years old, Gracie had been diagnosed with DIPG, an aggressive brain tumor. Lexie and Gracie became friends right away, talking and facetiming almost daily. Lexie became close with the Zaunbrecher family and Gracie was able to even travel to multiple meets. Gracie Zaunbrecher passed away in the fall of 2019 after a nearly three-year long battle with cancer. Now, Lexie has made it her mission to keep Gracie’s legacy alive. Lexie, the Zaunbrecher family, LSU Gymnastics and the Tiger Athletic Foundation started the Gracie Zaunbrecher endowed scholarship in honor of the young girl who meant so much. Lexie’s amazing act of kindness is why we started this award. She is a great candidate for the RAK Award!
Connor Perry – University of Pittsburgh
When Connor Perry learned that 9-year-old baseball player, Keagan Dowd, was battling a brain tumor, he knew he needed to be involved in some aspect of this young man’s life. When the two first met, they did what most baseball players do – they played catch and talked about life. Their friendship blossomed immediately and Connor began to invest more time and energy into Keagan – inviting him into Pitt’s dugout during games, allowing him to broadcast for Pitt Baseball, Tweeting back and forth with Keagan, and even rounding up his teammates to support Keagan at his Little League game. Ultimately, Connor’s act of kindness will influence Keagan’s life forever, simply because Connor wanted to do something good and make a small impact on a younger baseball player’s life. This random act of kindness makes Connor a great candidate for the RAK Award.
Alfred State’s Women’s Indoor Track Team – Alfred State
This is a very rare occasion in which multiple student-athletes have been nominated as all came together to do something special for someone else. During the ECAC indoor track & field championships in March 2019, the meet officials were going to cancel the women’s 1 mile event because there weren’t enough entries. A couple women on the Alfred State’s team heard that there was a qualifier, Grace Galligan from Franciscian University, that had a time just shy of NCAA qualifying and needed this race to get it. Those 5 Alfred State runners jumped in and entered the race, just so Grace could have the chance at her goal. In fact, not only did those 5 Alfred State milers enter & finish, but Grace won the race, hit a personal best, and now holds her school record with her time. Alfred State is so proud of their women’s 1 mile racers for showing such strong care for another’s dream. They epitomized sportsmanship for their efforts and created memories that will outlive the wins and losses of competition. This incredible act of kindness makes these girls wonderful candidates for the RAK Award.
Delaney Booth – University of the Sciences
Delaney is nominated for spearheading a fundraising project titled #ForTheTroops, that saw the USciences Athletics Department donate five boxes of toiletries, games, and non-perishable snacks, as well as cards containing encouraging messages, to troops in Afghanistan. She got the idea to begin her #ForTheTroops fundraising project after her father was deployed to Afghanistan as a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army Reserves in August 2017.
“This fundraiser means more to me than I can express because my father’s 12-month deployment to Afghanistan this past year gave me a completely new perspective on life and not taking anything for granted,” said Booth.
She understood the importance that these items, especially the cards containing the encouraging messages, had on these troops. “These items and cards mean so much to the troops,” Booth continued. “The cards give them a feeling of comfort and help boost their spirits while halfway across the world, and these small, yet important self-care items, snacks, and games that we sometimes take for granted help them take care of themselves physically, socially, and mentally.”Her going out of her way to positively impact others she has never met makes her a great candidate for our RAK Award!
Damar Hamlin – University of Pittsburgh
In February 2019, the city of Pittsburgh experienced some of the coldest temperatures on record. The Polar Vortex, as some called it, brought temperatures as low as -30 degrees at night. Quickly recognizing that these temperatures were unlivable for the homeless population in the city, Damar Hamlin, football student-athlete at the University of Pittsburgh jumped in to help. Rounding up all of the extra winter clothes within Pitt’s athletic department (as well as a few teammates), he drove to three homeless shelters around the city (Northside, Southside, and Downtown) to distribute over 100+ articles of clothing, hoping to ease the frigidness that these individuals were experiencing. Ultimately, Damar’s random act of kindness assisted a multitude of individuals in the city of Pittsburgh, and his willingness to take initiative to serve others just because it was the right thing to do, is why he is deserving of this award. This wonderful act of kindness surely went a long way and make Damar a great candidate for the RAK Award.
Elan Harris – Pomona College
A captain and 4-year starter on the football team, Elan started a football camp for youth in the towns of Pomona, Claremont, Upland, and beyond. For the clinic, Elan developed a comprehensive marketing campaign, conducted outreach to low-income schools, rallied 20+ coaches, and raised hundreds of dollars for operations. Unbelievable. The camp, Sagehen Youth Football Training (SHYFT) has an emphasis on holistic development, and was hugely impactful on hundreds of area-youth. Campers and parents alike raved about the kind of environment that Elan cultivated. He set the tone of camp each day, and made sure that each coach affirmed and uplifted our kids. Campers left as not only better football players, but as better people. Elan’s drive to make a difference in the community makes him a wonderful candidate for the RAK Award!
Ian Parzyszek – Messiah College
Ian went to his coach with an idea this past fall. He decided that he wanted to run a fundraiser volleyball tournament in order to raise funds to purchase Christmas trees and decorations for families in need. He, along with some other members of his team, organized a tournament, partnered with local churches to find families in need, and raised $844, which they used to purchase trees and decorations. It was an incredible act of kindness to help the community, and it all came to be because of Ian. This act of kindness is a perfect example of what we need more of in this world. Well done Ian! This simple, selfless act is why Ian is a great candidate for our Random Act of Kindness Award.
All our finalists also have a shot at winning the Community Award. This award goes to the individual who manages to garner the most support from the community. In order to measure this, all nominees will have to create a profile on our Athlete CRUSH app. The winner is the athlete who manages to get the most followers by deadline day! Show your support by giving them a follow on the Athlete CRUSH app!