On Christmas Eve, there will be a little bit of good cheer coming to Mason City’s local youth shelter, courtesy of the Iowa State football team.
On Thursday afternoon, the Cyclones will participate in a series of Zoom calls with different branches of YSS, an organization that provides emergency shelter and addiction treatment for at-risk Iowa youth.
According to Lindsey Long, the Assistant Athletic Director of Student-Athlete & Letterwinner Engagement at Iowa State, the Zoom calls are part of an initiative by the school’s football players to give back to the community and provide some encouragement to the kids spending Christmas at YSS.
According to Long, Cyclones' head coach Matt Campbell stresses community building and outreach from his team, and the players took the lead in reaching out to local youth. During COVID, it has been a challenge for the team to find ways to connect with the community, but the players took the lead in putting together this new outreach initiative.
“Whenever you can connect our college athletes with youth, especially those that are struggling and going through a transitional time, they can look up to the athletes and see that they also have similar struggles, it just may look different. Overcoming adversity and finding ways of promoting hope, and creating hope, is really what we want to instill."
Defensive back Lawrence White, defensive end JaQuan Bailey, running back Kene Nwangu, wide receiver Aidan Bitter, defensive back Anthony Johnson, linebacker Hunter Zenzen, and Kendell Jackson will be participating in the call with Mason City's YSS Francis Lauer Emergency Youth Shelter. The calls are scheduled to last about 15 minutes.
"I just know for YSS Francis Lauer, this is a really neat thing," Jackie Matt, vice president of philanthropy and community engagement for YSS, said. "I’m very excited about the opportunity for the kids to be able to see people outside of that building. All of us are having a hard time with COVID, but this is a great opportunity for them to be inspired. I’m really impressed that the football players would take time to do this."
"I think it speaks highly of the program, giving back to the community this way. "
Shane Lantz covers sports for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Shane.Lantz@GlobeGazette.com, or by phone at 641-421-0526. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneMLantz.