Steph Diorio

Softball candidates take excellence to a whole new level

by Steph Diorio March 26, 2012 in Softball

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Thirty women from all across the country are vying for an award. At first glance, the only thing they have in common is that they all play softball and are academically strong young women. Indeed, these are two of the qualities that have gotten them nominated for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award in the first place. However, being hard workers in the classroom and on the softball field aren’t enough – these young women were nominated because they all love to give back to their communities and are upstanding people.

This is where more similarities emerge. These women genuinely love to help others. At least two - Stephanie Ricketts (P/Hawaii) and Julie Fernandez (1B/Lehigh) - spend time in hospitals interning and volunteering. Several of them, including Molly Coldren (INF/Central Michigan), Mallory Duran-Sellers (OF/Southern Illinois), Chelsea Garcia (SS/Oklahoma State), Ashley Guile (INF/Nebraska) and Ashley Hagemann (P/Nebraska), are majoring in some form of education, planning to take on what is perhaps the most important job in the world, teaching young people. All 30 are volunteers in their community, with many taking on positions both at school and at home.

Reading through all 30 of their profiles, one organization appeared over and over again. At least three different girls - Valerie Arioto (P/1B/California), Ashley McClain (OF/P/Florida International), and Cassie Reilly-Boccia (OF/1B/Alabama) - were involved in some capacity with the Friends of Jaclyn, an organization dedicated to aiding the recovery of children with brain tumors. The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation was formed after Jaclyn Murphy, a nine-year-old lacrosse player, was diagnosed with a brain tumor that she only had a 30 percent chance of surviving in 2004. After hearing about her story, the Northwestern University women’s lacrosse team adopted her as an honorary member of the team and went on to have a perfect season. As Jaclyn recovered, she came up with the idea to match children with brain tumors with college sports teams to support them and aid them in their recovery. The organization has helped more than 300 children since.

These three women – and their teammates – adopted children and now consider them teammates, helping to better their lives and make them happy as they recover from potentially fatal illness. By reaching out and gaining three little sisters, the young women displayed maturity and strength, inspiring those same traits in the children that became honorary members of their softball teams.

Maturity and inner strength, it seems, are the qualities that all 30 of these remarkable young women possess that set them apart from the rest of the softball-playing field. It’s certainly one thing to be a fierce competitor – that’s how you make it from the high school level to the college level as an athlete - drive and hard work. It’s another thing entirely to be just as hard-working off the field and to use one’s spare time to make a difference in this world. The 30 girls nominated for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award have done just that, and that’s why they stand out from the rest.